End of Year Lists: Anthony Firmin's Picks
Writer and photographer Anthony Firmin chooses his top 10 albums and gigs for 2018. As he explains “the list of gigs wasn’t at all difficult to compile, however the order of the albums could change depending on how I feeling on a particular day although Hundred Year Old Man would still be my album of the year, it is sonically orgasmic!”
Top 10 Albums – 2018
1. HYOM – Breaching
To be honest sludge and doom do nothing for me, but HYOM transcend this taking their music on a journey into post-metal. I described this album as Black Sabbath meets Tangerine Dream which may be a tad simplistic for such a complex album, but having listened to this for much of the year along with it’s sibling EP Rei, it still confronts me and teases me with it’s depth and space with every play, it is apocalyptic and intense, the spoken word passages fit perfectly too. Other sludge/doom bands could learn a thing or seven from this band.
2. Band-Maid – World Domination
J-Rock isn’t eveyone’s cup of tea and I have a certain distaste for over commercialised Baby-Metal but when I encountered the single Thrill some years ago I was instantly hooked by this band. This album continues the trend of hook laden rock and is solid all the way through.
3. Black Peaks – All That Divides
Although I enjoyed Black Peaks debut album it never really grabbed me, this album however takes things to another level and delivers the goods; Aether is a real standout track from these heavy post-rockers although to be fair every track is a killer.
4. The Fierce & The Dead – The Euphoric
From the monstrous rocker Truck which became a favourite of mine earlier in the year the album takes you on an instrumental journey that encapsulates a lot the new wave sounds of the early 80’s.
5. Jo Quail – Exsolve
Taking cello playing to another level making the instrumental not sound like a cello at all. Another instrumental album in my list it is an exploration of sound within it’s three tracks, Manderel Cantus reminds me of Michael Brookes and his infinity guitar soundscapes and all her pieces transcend well into live performances.
6. Prognosis – Definition
Bit of an obvious one really, an album that took on a new itinerary having to be rerecorded at one point. But the time taken is worthwhile because the album takes the high road and consequently shines like a beacon in the world of prog-metal.
7. Shattered Skies – Muted Neon
I’ve waited for so long for this album and I wasn’t disappointed, the band gave us more of the same and I have loved every track even with a new singer who sounds surprisingly like the old one. Modern era prog at it’s finest.
8. Talons – All We Know
I discovered instrumental post-rock/post-metal Talons, replete with two violinists, at the Tramlines side event in Sheffield. I was so impressed with them that I bought the album there and then and it is an interesting listen, it’s heavy and yet at times mournful, hyptnotic and intense.
9. Vodun - Ascend
When the video for Spirits Past dropped earlier in the year I knew then and there that this album was going to be a cracker, and I was right. The music is as colourful as you would expect, it’s a classic rock style with African and New Orleans voodoo mixed in.
10. Long Distance Calling – Boundless
A stunning album by these German post-metallers, from the relentless drumming to tight guitar playing the album works so well now the vocals have gone, the music washing over as the band have become rejuvenated.
Top 10 Gigs – 2018
1. HYOM – Rebellion
You always know that you have seen something special when you leave a gig with a huge smile on your face and that smile stays with you; this was the second time I have seen them and they able to deliver what is on the album live which is no mean feat.
2. Black Peaks – in a pub (Idle Hands, Brighton)
We managed to be in Brighton at the same time that Black Peaks had their album launch show, in a pub! It was small, intimate and packed… brutal too!
3. Steven Wilson – Bridgewater Hall (both nights)
Two shows, two quite different sets, each show centred around his last two albums - the first night was To The Bone, the second night Hand. Cannot. Erase.. Sheer quality.
4. ArcTanGent Festival
I have to admit that I was greatly impressed with ArcTanGent, from the organisation to the food options, to the quality of the music, a weekend of predominantly post-rock oriented music with lots of new bands discovered too.
5. Leprous/Agent Fresco – Gorilla
Two bands who I adore on the same bill ended up being a dream gig, an emotionally charged show of post-rock and prog that delivered on every level.
6. Caligulas Horse – Star & Garter
With the stunning album In Contact released last year, this was a chance to see them perform their epic alternative progressive rock in an intimate environment; fellow Aussies I Built The Sky were a great discovery too and localish prog metallers Sertraline certainly gained new fans.
7. Dan Patlansky / Mollie Marriott – Greystones Sheffield
It was a hot, sweaty and packed pub gig, perfect for a night of blues rock and Dan Patlansky didn’t fail us, Mollie Marriott was the perfect foil as an opener performing tracks from her sensational debut.
8. Dan Reed Network – Club Academy
A disappearing act by a band widely tipped to be huge at the end of the 80’s have in recent years reappeared re-energised andjudging by this performance 30 years later it shows what could have been in a no filler set.
9. Tramlines (side festival) – Sheffield City Hall Ballroom
The main pull for me at this festival was Agent Fresco who put on a killer performance but it was also about discovering a host of new acts like Jo Quail, Talons and finally seeing the likes of Pijn and Jamie Lenman live. It was an impressive line-up and well organised too.
10. Vodun – Rebellion
An evening of vibrant colour, equally vibrant sounds along with the killer vocals of Chantal Brown as the band capture spirits past and deliver them in the present. Local blues rockers Voodoo Blood were the perfect foil as support too.