BEST METAL MEMORY:
Richie Faulkner's solo 'You've Got Another Thing Coming', live at Manchester Apollo
Cinderella, Shepherd's Bush Empire/Sabaton, London Koko
Dragonland 'Under The Grey Banner'
Anthrax 'Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't'
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2011. What a year! As Kurt Cobain and his tedious cardigan slowly fade from our memories via a money-grabbing twenty-year retrospective, I can happily look back on a year that proves once and for all: Metal never
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ANTHRAX are resurgent. JUDAS PRIEST are electrifying. CINDERELLA played London. ALICE COOPER covered the Stones and The Beatles at The 100 Club. HAMMERFALL have evolved. MANOWAR toured the UK. STEEL PANTHER exist. DEF LEPPARD and MOTLEY CRUE co-headlined. IRON MAIDEN played The 02 Arena. BLACK SABBATH reformed (again). And METALLICA have disappointed all their fans (again).
2011. What a year... My highlights come long and fast like a Tommy Lee internet release. It started in March with Adler's appetite playing all of 'Appetite for Destruction'. That was a special evening which captured the essence of early Guns N'Roses. It was loud, chaotic and dirty and had a guest appearance from Duff McKagan!
ALICE COOPER played the 100 Club, and I was able to get a ticket more by accidental good timing than planning. Unmasked and leaving Alice at home, we got Mr Vince Furnier covering his early and late 1960s influences, from The Yardbirds to The Who, with special guest-star JOHNNY DEPP.
One of this year's most exciting nights was the visit to London of WHERE ANGELS SUFFER. The band's energy and post-show friendliness was awesome, and the MetalTalk team who were out in force got to meet and greet with the great Chris Holmes and Stet Howland!
I have two favourite gigs of the year - they were both so different and it was impossible to choose! First, without any doubt, was CINDERELLA. A band that is almost a myth in that they rarely visit the UK, don't release new material and the singer's voice teeters on oblivion. But their London show was near-perfection. Everything was just right and Tom Keifer held us spellbound for the entire set.
Second was SABATON at The Koko (below). A frustrating venue for a magnificent band. Raising the roof by playing all their best-known tracks first, they proceeded to allow the crowd to choose the setlist, and created a jubilant end of tour party which was not only musically superb but showcased their sense of fun and cemented their relationship with their fervent fanbase. With a new album due in March, this is a band to watch in 2012.
Special mention of course must go to MANOWAR for their Brixton show. I missed the Birmingham gig, which was a shame, but we got the full force of Joey De Maio's bass on a Saturday night in London, and it was triumphant. Hail!
Best album of the year is difficult to pick. The Nordic bands have come in force with HAMMERFALL leading the pack, closely followed by great debuts from CHEERLEADER and SHOTGUN REVOLUTION. MICHAEL MONROE (with a bit of help from GINGER) put out an award-winning record that came to life via a brilliant UK tour and a slot at High Voltage.
And then there's ANTHRAX. One of the surprise packages of 2011, led by my favourite single of the year, 'Fight 'Em Til You Can't'. The album has something for everyone and assures their status as one of the Big Four. I can't wait to see them live in 2012.
It wasn't all power Metal and thrash, however, and for the AOR crew, NIGHT RANGER pulled a rabbit out of the hat with 'Somewhere In California'. But my most listened-to album this year, and one which I didn't expect to like, is the debut record by THE MAGNIFICENT. It is syrupy smooth, beautifully produced and answers my complaint that 'they don't make 'em like they used to'. Turns out, they do! This is pure 1980s style melodic rock, with vocals to die for. I love it and can't think of anybody who wouldn't enjoy a moment of its unadulterated guilty pleasure. .
The Magnificent is not my best album of 2011 however. That honour is reserved for DRAGONLAND's 'Under The Grey Banner'. If you haven't heard it yet, check it out as it is superb. First impressions may be that it's a low-key release to a battle-Metal niche crowd, but it is so much more than that. Symphonic, theatrical, subtle in parts, it raises the bar for what can be achieved by Metal musicians, and I hope it will find a wider commercial audience in 2012. The glowing reviews certainly back this up. If you don't try it, you'll never know that you like it. Get out there and give it a go with an open mind. It's a great record.
My best Metal memory of the year involves the one and only JUDAS PRIEST. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, they shrugged off the terrible news that KK had retired, introduced RICHIE FAULKNER and dusted off some backcatalogue rarities. I had the huge privilege of interviewing IAN HILL and got to see the band at their best in Manchester. Despite age catching up with them, their work rate is phenomenal, their global touring impressive, and ROB HALFORD, who may be slow around the stage, continues to deliver vocally in his unique way. Setlist highlights included 'Blood Red Skies', a mind-blowing 'Painkiller' and an awesome revamped version of 'You've Got Another Thing Coming' with a new solo show-off section for Richie.
2011. What a year!
Oh, and finally, a special 'Approach With Extreme Caution' award to Queensryche 'Dedicated To Chaos' and Lou Reed and Metallica 'Lulu'. Say no more...
Jonathan Churchill. MetalTalk.net
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