It was a bright cold day on the ‘spill, and the clocks were striking 13…


My 11 most played albums of ’12 in ’13.

My end of year round up is now turned into the ‘spill game:
you know the score DUMP one (or all of them – see if I care)

It’s pop and it’s fun – don’t take it too seriously.
Remember, they are my most played – I’m not claiming they will change the world – I just liked them.

Band names in BOLD – for those who believe I make stuff up:

1 Stroke My Curls The Dodoz Forever I Can Purr 2012
2 Cuka (feat. Ikonoklasta) Batida Batida (feat. Mck, Circuito Feixado, Ikonoklasta, Beat Laden 2012
3 The Empty Man Whitey Lost Summer 2012
4 Genevieve Stealing Sheep Into The Diamond Sun 2012
5 Horn For The Whole Damn World Lazarus and the Plane Crash Horseplay
6 Passenger Emily Wells Mama 2012
7 Kevlar Sweethearts Diablo Swing Orchestra Pandora’s Pinata 2012
8 Be Strong (Blakkat Remix) The 2 Bears Be Strong (Deluxe Edition) 2012
9 Rat-at-at The Skints Part & Parcel 2012
10 Clap Hooded Fang Tosta Mista 2012
11 Circus Sunday Driver The Mutiny 2012

Panthersan’s Best……..Metal Album of 2012

Due to financial constraints, lack of time and all the excitement of the build up and aftermath of new fatherhood, I haven’t bought enough albums to do a proper Top Ten this year. To get around this, I thought I’d choose 5 albums from arbitrarily chosen genres and present them as my favourite representative of that genre for the year.

Let’s kick off with my favourite metal album of 2012.

Dragged Into Sunlight – “Widowmaker”


Fighting off stiff competition from veteran grindcore types Pig Destroyer’s excellently brutal “Bookburner”, “Widowmaker” is a stunningly ambitious album that takes in post rock, doom, sludge, death metal and lashings and lashings of lovely, nasty black metal, that just about blew my mind the first time I heard it. Dragged Into Sunlight have been going a few years now and they’ve managed to maintain their mystery and menace (all band photos feature the band wearing sinister black balaclavas and they only go by their first initials) without descending into a cliche.

“Widowmaker” is split into three parts and the first 15 minutes lull you into a false sense of security as a gorgeous post-rock tune emerges and builds, complete with strings (especially a nice haunting violin sound) that doesn’t sound dissimilar to one of Mogwai’s quieter moments, but as the spoken word samples signal a shift in pace all hell breaks loose and the uncompromising nasty black/death metal guitars kick in along with the tortured vocals. The whole thing winds down with a combination of the first two parts interspersing reflective instrumentation with sludgy guitars and screamed/growled vocals and you are left feeling like you’ve been on some kind of terrifying but ultimately redemptive journey….or maybe that’s just me!

It’s difficult to know what track to put up as any one of the three parts would totally misrepresent the rest of the album, so I would encourage anyone even slightly interested to seek out the whole thing, but seeing as this is supposed to be my favourite metal album of 2012, I’d better post the most metal one.
(it doesn’t have the weird introduction on the record – this is the only digital version I could find)

…the other 4 to follow…erm…quite soon!

Hello Boys & Girls – I’m B-B-A-A-A-A-C-C-C-K-K-K !!!

Oh the joy, the relief, the sheer “Thank-F**K-for-that”-edness! (Sorry yet again for the swearies, TFD; I really AM trying to cut down on my bad language.) Computer back, seemingly fixed, installed, online, and all elements so far talking to each other without any problem. Better than that, the PC is now sat on my new one-piece desk which feels so much bigger than the old one I almost feel like inviting you all over to come and have a picnic on it!

So excuse me a little noisy indulgence, whilst I sit back at my workspace and enjoy a few stress-free minutes, before the reality of just how much admin work I’ll now have to catch up on dawns on me.

Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – All New Podcast !

Yes, that’s right ‘Spillers, an all-new PODCAST! Long overdue, I know….but, better late than never, right? Well, don’t agree until you’ve listened to it !

It’s a very random and eclectic mix based on whatever was in my box of records at the time….and there were so many I didn’t get to that I wanted to include. They’ll have to wait until next time, I suppose.

Listen until the end for some exciting news ! Well, exciting for me, not perhaps for anyone else !

Enjoy !

The Rocker – 25 Years Gone

Copyright Jim Fitzpatrick

Happy Birthday to Phil Lynott – had he lived, it would be his 62nd birthday today. It would be very easy to grumble on about what was a sad demise and a profound waste of life of a charismatic and talented musician, but I am quite sure that Phil would have no truck with all of that and anyway I would like to focus on the good stuff.

When I was growing up, I guess Phil might have seemed a rather bizarre choice of Irish hero: he was black, his father had scarpered before he was born and he was decidedly Irish in a way that was decidedly uncool. He was interested in folk music, celtic art,  mythology and poetry at a time when we as a nation were not keen on admitting an interest in anything so downright Gaelic. He drew friends and collaborators from the unlikeliest places and was a fantastically colourful dandy in the Vatican state that I grew up in. Some of the songs were macho and sexist, yet everybody’s mammy had a soft spot for him because he was the most charming and unaffected of rockers – very bashful despite the on-stage posing.

From the early to mid seventies he wrote pop and rock music with a lyrical quality and a deft touch with melody. He was a fixture on Top Of The Pops – who else would be cock sure enough to install a mirrored scratchplate on his bass so that he could blind us all with his brilliance? We were proud of him and we were in his eyes his “supporters” – Phil was always a bit of a Manchester United fan.

With Live And Dangerous, Thin Lizzy launched the template for the heavy rock live album oft copied but truly never bettered – all the guff about studio overdubbing is rendered superfluous when you listen to the result.The Boys Are Back In Town remains one of the most played songs on US radio, but his musical legacy has been blighted by his own fractious relationship with record companies and collaborators who have found it all too easy to rehash the catalogue rather than explore.

In an obituary, Fintan O’Toole wrote that Phil was a nicer bloke than Geldof or Bono and that he had wasted more talent than they could ever dream of. Two clips can summarise what he was about and maybe where he could be, and twenty five years after his death, that is really all we have along with the indelible memories  for those fortunate enough to have seen him in his prime.

Post-Black Metal

Now, I DO love a good sub-genre, so imagine my excitement over the last few years as i’ve slowly watched the merging of two of my favourites; Black Metal and Post-Rock into the beautiful beast of a sub-sub-genre that has finally been named Post-Black Metal. It takes the lo-fo production, dark atmospherics, and often the anguished howls of Black metal and combines them with a lot of instrumental workouts, Mogwai-style quiet/loud dynamics and even some very prominent shoegazey moments. The bands themselves also eschew the traditional corpsepaint and spikes in favour of the beardy indie bloke look.

I started noticing it a few years ago when some wags starting referring to US Black metal types Wolves In The Throne Room as “Grey Metal” for being all metally and black, but you know, kinda nice at the same time, with lyric sheets dealing in environmental meltdown etc, they read more like a Guardian Saturday supplement than an extract from the Marquis De Sade’s undiscovered even more hardcore, “De Sade Nights” script! And, I finally found a special feature in Terrorizer magazine a couple of months ago, giving the sub-sub-genre it’s name, which I wasn’t aware of before.

I apologise for being about six months too late with this post as a lot of the leading bands in the scene (a large proportion of which seem to be French for some reason) have jumped the shark somewhat in my opinion, releasing recent albums that have acoustic guitar and like, real, proper singing, which is just going too far.

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Time for some Sax-driven Black Metal?

Ihsahn (no, I don’t know how you’re supposed to pronounce it either) are the band I discovered too late in the year for their excellent album “After” to make my Best of 2010 list. You’d never have thought adding jazz sax to metal would work, but it does. Some definite hints of “Red”-era King Crimson in the mix somewhere, I think. Too many people (not necessarily RR-ets) love to sneer at metal as dumb music for Beavis and Butthead types, but I feel music like this is a lot more creative and challenging than many other more fashionable genres.

And I downloaded the album (legally!) from mFlow for £1.60! – costs a bit more now since mFlow’s sale has ended.

In Defence Of…………Guns’N’Roses

After the reasonably successful defence of Menswe@r’s legacy, I thought i’d try another much maligned band that I love: Guns ‘n’ Roses.

Now, G’n’R (as they will henceforth be known) are quite rightly pilloried for being rock’n’roll cliche, washed-up hasbeens with a self-delusional, talentless megalomaniac frontman in Axl Rose. All true, but for me, before the ‘Spill corrupted me with jazz and before the noise and the drone, before the black metal, electronica, indie and the Britpop, even before the Kurt Cobain obsession, there was Guns’N’Roses.

G’n’R burst on to the overcrowded LA scene in scene in 1987 with their debut album “Appetite For Destruction” and immediately distinguished themselves from the pack simply by being ten times as GOOD as everyone else! For me, “Appetite….” is a near flawless album of urban desperation; a hedonistic drug-fuelled journey into the dangerous underbelly of LA, with Slash and Izzy’s massive guitar riffs and Duff McKagan’s basslines creating a mean metal noise that also managed to have melody and pop sensibility. It may not seem like it now, but G’n’R, with their Jack Daniels swiggin’, groupie shaggin’, drug-imbibin’ LA lifestyle were definitely DANGEROUS!! And as a teenager in Southern England , I bloody loved it!!

Back in 1991, they were pretty much the biggest band in the world. They released their highly ambitious and groundbreaking twin album release on a single day of “Use Your Illusion I & II” , which contained political speeches (“Civil War”), angry ripostes to journalists who had dared suggest that G’n’R may be a bit rubbish (“Get In The Ring”) and in “November Rain” a perfectly constructed epic ballad of a relationship gone awry (there was no suspicion yet that “Nevermind” would completely destroy and effectively kill dead the hedonistic LA hair metal scene) They also embarked on a planet-destroying (and band destroying too!) world tour which was boosted by an amazing performance in the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert in 1992, where Axl’s white cycling shorts and “Kill Your Idols” T-Shirt put them firmly in the middle of the mainstream’s consciousness, and they could do no wrong. Their gig at Wembley stadium in June 1992 was my first big concert and they were just incredible!

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Tim’s Year of Live Music

My musical year has been defined more by live music than by albums, with something like 40 gigs this year. It’s almost impossible to chose the best of these, but here are a dozen of the most memorable, in chronological order.

Mostly Autumn at Leamington Assembly

This gig on Good Friday was Heather Findlay’s farewell performance with the progressive rock band she’d fronted for twelve years, the whole thing superbly captured on the DVD “That Night In Leamington”. It was an extremely emotional night for those of us who were there, but also one of the best performances I’ve seen by the band to date; certainly a fitting close for an era of the band.

Breathing Space at Bilston Robin 2

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Olivia Sparnenn played her last gig with her old band Breathing Space before leaving to replace Heather in Mostly Autumn. The Robin is always a great gig for any band and this one was no exception; Olivia certainly ended her time with the band on a high. The whole thing had a great vibe and I can remember how positive everyone was after the gig.

Protect the Beat at the Mumbles Jazz Festival

When a gig is billed as jazz-fusion played by top rock and pop session musicians, one could be excused for fearing the worst. But the energy and enthusiasm of the five musicians made this instrumental set one of the gigs of the year. The key factor was that it was abundantly clear that they were enjoying every minute on stage, and that enthusiasm was infectious. This is what live music is all about.

Transatlantic at Manchester Academy 1

The prog-rock supergroup featuring members of Marillion, Spock’s Beard and Dream Theater proved every bit as enthusiastic about being on stage as had Protect The Beat a couple of weeks earlier. The three and a half hour set comprised just seven songs of grandiose swirling epic prog, including their 70-minute “The Whirlwind”. The word “progtastic” is the only way to describe an evening like this, even if the song to set length ratio was enough to give Alexis Petridis the vapours.

Mostly Autumn and Panic Room at Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Just a week after those two farewell gigs Mostly Autumn took to the stage with Olivia Sparnenn fronting the band. I saw them a number of times on that tour; the best of the lot was when they and Panic Room supported Wishbone Ash in London in mid-May. Panic Room played a short and sweet opening set, then Mostly Autumn went absolutely full-tilt for a special guest spot of just under an hour. The headline act just could not follow that; the consensus was that they ended up the third-best band of the night.

Fish at The Band on the Wall, Manchester

After taking the best part of a year out, the former Marillion frontman has been touring with a stripped-down acoustic show in small intimate venues backed by just Frank Usher on guitar and Foss Patterson on keys. Despite having suffered from throat problems in recent years, Fish proved that he’s very much still got it as a live performer both as a singer and a charismatic frontman. Most memorable moment was when he looked me in the eye when he mentioned an earlier gig in York, and didn’t make any mention of his ex.

High Voltage festival at Victoria Park, London

While this big commercial festival had it’s downsides of long queues to get in, overpriced beer, and a yawn-inducing Saturday headliner, the upsides were some superb bands, of whom Touchstone, The Reasoning, Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, BigElf, Zappa Plays Zappa, Opeth and Transatlantic stood out. The whole thing ended with a gloriously ridiculous show by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was probably the only way to end such a festival.

Cambridge Rock Festival

This small friendly festival was a complete contrast to the commercialism of High Voltage. No big name headliners, but the vibe of the festival was such that it didn’t really need it. The best day was undoubtedly the Sunday, headlined by Mostly Autumn (them again!) and also featured great sets from Panic Room and Breathing Space, the latter being the début for their new singer Heidi Widdop. But it was the special guest, prog veterans The Enid who stole the show with an utterly mesmerising set.

Therion at Shepherds Bush Empire, London

I went to this gig having heard a couple of their albums, not really knowing what to expect. Seeing a band whose lyricist apparently heads a magickal order on Halloween night makes you wonder if they would attempt to summon Great Cthulhu at some point in the show, but what we got was epic symphonic metal with elaborate but hugely melodic multi-part vocal arrangements from four classically-trained singers. An amazing gig, quite unlike anything else I’ve heard all year

Steve Hackett at Shepherds Bush Empire, London

The Godfather of prog guitar gave us one of the most prog gigs of the year, mixing material from his excellent recent album with 70s Genesis classics like “Watcher of the Skies” and “Firth of Fifth”. Nick Beggs (of Kajagoogoo fame) on bass and Chapman stick managed to make himself the centre of attention as a cross-dressing steampunk Gandalf, but it was Hackett’s distinctive liquid guitar playing that reminded us just how influential his guitar sound has been in the progressive rock world.

Mostly Autumn at The Fleece and Firkin, Bristol

I got to see Mostly Autumn several times on their Autumn tour, when they laid to rest many of their old standards to play a set drawing very heavily from their superb new album “Go Well Diamond Heart”. Of the shows I saw, their return to Bristol after an absence of several years was the best; good sound, spirited and enthusiastic performance, and a lengthy set ending with some Christmas standards. I do love their rockier take of Greg Lake’s “I believe in Father Christmas” in particular. Also great to see CaroleBristol at this gig.

Panic Room and Touchstone at Bilston Robin 2

Some people don’t like the idea of double headliners where both bands play 70-80 minute sets instead of a full-length headline set, but this female-fronted prog double bill pulled a vastly bigger crowd than I’ve ever seen either band draw on their own. And they got their money’s worth; both bands pulled out all the stops and gave as good a performance as I’ve ever seen them play. High spot, if there was any single one, was Anne-Marie Helder’s spine-tingling rendition of “O Holy Night”.

Tim’s Albums of the Year

2010 doesn’t seem to have been quite as strong a year as 2009, when I did a top 15 on my own blog – this year I struggled to name ten, with some albums getting a lot of hype in my musical circles doing nothing much for me at all.- Iron Maiden and Pineapple Thief being two of them. There is utterly zero overlap with The Guardian’s own top 40, or even the top 10s of any of The Guardian’s writers. Somehow I don’t think any of the RR crew will be surprised by that…

10: Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels

More Dungeons and Dragons operatic pomp-metal from the Italian quintet, again featuring narration from Sir Christopher Lee and a corny plot featuring a Dark Lord called “Necron”. All good fun in a cheesy sort of way, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground for the band. Twenty-sided dice are not included.

9: Parade – The Fabric

Parade is the brainchild of Fish guitarist and former Mostly Autumn keyboard player Chris Johnson, with the collaboration of Anne-Marie Helder, Gavin Griffiths, Patrick Berry and Simon Snaize. It took me a few listens for this one to click; on the surface it’s an indie-sounding album with it’s sparse chiming guitars and clattering drums; but listen more closely and there’s some real musical depth there.

8: Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here

The former doom-metallers return after a lengthy absence and drop just about all traces of metal from their sound in favour of atmospheric soundscapes. It’s a musical journey that works far far better as one continuous listen than as a collection of individual songs.

7: The Reasoning – Adverse Camber

The Cardiff band’s third album continues in a similar prog-metal vein as 2008’s “Dark Angel”, albeit with Rachel Cohen handling the majority of the lead vocals. A solid piece of work with some great songs, even if it doesn’t (for me at least) quite reach the heights of their first two albums.

6: Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer and Anvil

PRR describe their third album as “Disco-prog”, meaning they’ve put electronic dance, prog and metal into a blender. At times atmospheric, at times sounding like The Prodigy at their most mental, it puts the progressive back into prog.

5: Therion – Sitra Ahra

Not quite as bonkers as their last album “Gothic Kabballah”, this one is the slightly more accessible side of Therion’s choral metal. It’s still filled with complex multi-part vocal arrangements using multiple classically-trained singers, which when combined with twin lead guitars makes for a very rich sound indeed.

4: Black Country Communion

The combination of Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian is in danger of giving supergroups a good name with this album of classic 70s-style hard rock. Hughes, despite his age is on fine form vocally, Bonamassa shows he can do hard rock as well as blues, and Jason Bonham is in the same league as his famous father. Sherinian really only has a supporting role given that cast, but still delivers some great Hammond playing. The best album Led Zeppelin never recorded in the 70s? Maybe.

3: Karnataka – The Gathering Light

Five years in the making, the second incarnation of Karnataka finally deliver an album of old-school symphonic prog on a truly epic scale. Features heartfelt female vocals from the now-departed Lisa Fury and some fantastic guitar playing from Enrico Pinna, as well as guest appearances from Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes, and Hugh McDowell, formerly of ELO, on cello.

2: Panic Room – Satellite

Compared with it’s complex, multilayered predecessor, Panic Room’s second album is made up simpler, more direct songs. The very different musical backgrounds of the five members combine in an alchemical mix which results in far more than the sum of the parts. Elements of hard rock, prog, pop, folk and jazz contribute to a sound that defies easy pigeonholing, with some very thought provoking lyrics from Anne-Marie Helder.

1: Mostly Autumn – Go Well Diamond Heart

OK, so you all know I’m a huge fan of this band. But this is the first time since I’ve been blogging that they’ve come up with my album of the year. It’s an immensely varied album containing atmospheric celtic moments, belting hard rockers, shimmering four-minute pop songs, and soaring ballads. They’ve managed to take the spirit of 70s classic rock and made it sound relevant for the 21st century with great songwriting, singing and musicianship. And they’ve done it straight after the departure of a much-loved lead singer too.

Top Ten Albums Of 2010 – Part Two

Here’s my seven to five!

7. “Boys Outside” – Steve Mason

The former Beta Band singer’s first release under his own name, a very enjoyable collection that veers from polished pop songs to space dub reggae – all topped with the unique Mason vocal touch.

6. “Phosphene Dream” – The Black Angels

My fave modern heavy deavy psyche rockers went pop with this, their third LP, throwing in some 60s garage nuggets amongst the usual skull crushing i’m stuck in a foxhole in ‘Nam paranoid drone antics. “River Of Blood”, below, falls into the latter category however – yikes!

5. “Subjection” – Your Loyal Subjects

Guitar and drums haven’t sounded this good for bloody ages. Heavy mental action from the band no-one’s calling “Viking Bolt”. Nice sleeve that too…

Youn Sun Nah- Enter Sandman

My latest post-jazz post features a French based, Korean singer whose new album is doing well in the French jazz charts (though it received a lukewarm reception in the Guardian).

It’s de rigueur for post-jazz artists to cover grunge or metal hits, and I think Youn Sun Nah delivers one of the best recent efforts, stripping this song back to its skeleton to focus on the quite decently creepy lyrics, and indulging in some tasteful Purim-esque screaming midway through.

Your Loyal Subjects: “Subjection”

Like Black Flag beating Muse to death in a back alley, while James Brown holds the coats – Your Loyal Subjects have come to pummel your ears and face into the ground before holding the whole sordid mess in front of a mirror for contemplation.

“Subjection” has some of the best, most dynamic, face melting riffage that I’ve ever heard, and with incredibly intelligent political/ personal lyrics thrown in for good measure. Loud guitars and loud drums are one of life’s sheer visceral pleasures, and this LP has them in spades, as well as more funk than George Clinton’s trousers after he’s worn them for a month.

YLS have been a staple of the Edinburgh underground music scene for ages, and make more noise than every other Edinburgh band combined –  at a recent gig of theirs, halfway through their set,  the sheer metal racket they made attracted a pack of half naked vikings in from the street (they proceeded to stage dive, lick their own sweat off the walls, and pretty much smash the whole place up).

Your Loyal Subjects “Medicine”

Your Loyal Subjects “Objects”

Visit their website for more info

Oh yeah, I designed the sleeve, by the way..