It’s that time again… Iain’s year end lists.

2016 is hurtling towards it’s end, and up and down the Internet webzine writers are trying desperately to remember what great music has come out in the past 12 months. This is never an easy task, especially for those of us that can’t remember what happened yesterday.

testament-iain-cackblabbath-4Looking back over the past 12 months, it’s probably fair to say it’s not been a vintage year exactly, but then in 2015 we were a bit spoiled. Still, it saw Megadeth returning to something resembling their former glories, Anthrax consolidating their regained position towards the top of the Thrash metal tree and even Metallica managing to release something that, if not exactly a return to form, at least was a step up from meh-tul mediocrity.

Good job Testament were there to save the day, once again setting the target for others to aspire to.

Away from the crash of powerchords and the thunder of double-kick drums things were equally good. In F.E.A.R. Marillion kept us fans happy, while enjoying a modicum of commercial success and hopefully gaining a small but will-be loyal gang of new fans.

The left field entry here is definitely David Bowie’s requiem from beyond the grave Blackstar. Given the circumstances that it was recorded under it’s one of the most poignant releases of the year. Although in all honesty I’d not say it was in my top 10 initially, my iTunes play count would beg to differ…

But then it thinks my most listened to artist is Billy Joel so, ahem, I’m sure there’s something wrong there.

Picking the top 10 is hard enough, and getting them into some sort of order is harder still. So, in alphabetical order here’s my pick of the year…

Alter Bridge : The Last Hero

Amon Amarth : Jomsviking

Anthrax : For All Kings

David Bowie : Blackstar

F.E.A.R : Marillion

Grand Magus : Sword Songs

Moonsorrow : Jumalten Aika

Opeth : Sorceress

Surgical Meth Machine : Surgical Meth Machine

Testament : Brotherhood Of The Snake

And on the live side… Well the event of the year (and it’s been a great year) was in all honesty a weekend in Londin which involved Wembley Stadium, one of the biggest names I’ve ever seen, a bloke called Chainsaw and a cover of Highway To Hell that got 70,000 people singing along as the place was lit up like the pits of hell.

billy-joel-2-2

Yep, Billy Joel again.

I’m assuming that I’m in something of a minority round these parts in that one though, so here’s an entirely sensible alphabetically sorted top 10 live encounters of 2016.

Well entirely sensible if you ignore The Toy Dolls…

candlemass-hrhdvs-iain-cackblabbath-1Candlemass @ HRH Stoner Vs Doom

After a weekend of Doom, Stoner and all things uber-heavy Candlemass took the stage in Sheffield and showed everyone exactly how it should be done.

Dakesis @ The O2 Academy, Birmingham

Birmingham’s finest power metallers hosted Birmingham’s finest party for their album launch. We laughed, we danced, we stayed dober because we had to drive back to Manchester.

Desert Storm @ HRH Stoner Vs Doom

Has to be one sweaty big name in a sweaty small room on the list somewhere…

Sabaton  @ Download Paris

It pissed down, a lot, but even that couldn’t dampen the response that everyone’s favourite Swedes got from the mudbath in front of Download’s main stage.

6 VallenfyreVallenfyre @ Bloodstock

Somehow they managed to avoid decomposing in the bright afternoon sunshine as Greg & Co brought the filth to Bloodstock Open Air

Rammstein @ Download Paris

Festival headlining perfection of jaw dropping proportions. Catching the German legends twice in a week was definitely the highlight of our French jaunt this summer.

The Aussie Wrecking Crew @ The Cathouse, Glasgow

Three great bands from down under who blew away the mid week cobwebs in a dark and rainy Glasgow.

The Toy Dolls-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-14The Toy Dolls @ Hellfest

You had to be there. We were just the right stage of drunk for this one to take on a whole new level of Awesome.

All together now “To Bom Bay…”

Venom @ Bloodstock

Waited a flipping long time to catch the Black Metal gods without having to fly off somewhere unpronounceable. Good job they didn’t disappoint then, innit.