2012 has been a landmark year here in Britain. There’s been some major highs – the Olympics, for one. There’s been some shit stuff too – mass scandal everywhere. But one thing that can be said is that it’s been a fantastic year for music, both here and abroad. It’s also been TwoBeatsOff’s biggest year yet. So we’re doing a best of 2012; a comprehensive list of our favourite bits this year.
Best band: I was going to nominate a certain massive Welsh band, but that’s been a bit tainted with all the allegations going around at present. Instead, I’m going to go with one of the hardest working bands in the UK right now, and one of the most technically able. Chronographs have been working their arse off all year to put together one of the finest EPs I’ve laid my hands on in recent times. They’re incredible live, extraordinarily talented musicians for their age and are set for greatness. Recently signed to Ghost Music with their new EP coming out soon (check out our five star review here), 2013 will be where Chronographs truly hit the spotlight.
Best album: this year, my vote goes to Parkway Drive – Atlas. The Australian metalcore powerhouse have come out gold with an album that not only brings the beatdown, but some outstanding orchestral sections. It’s big in every sense of the word. I attempted to review it but essentially found my fingers going “hgrighdiogndrk” on the keyboard. Of course, mental keyboard spam is a general reaction to Winston McCall in my case, but it really just hit the mark on every level. And it managed to fully destroy the left speaker in my car because the breakdowns are just that tasty.
Best newcomer: For this one, my nomination goes to Good Friend. Even though they’ve only released one EP and not done that much else, I’ve not been able to stop listening to that EP all year. Nothing has made me grin more. If you’re a fan of stuff like The Lawrence Arms, Hot Water Music et al, then you’ll love Good Friend.
Best live act: It was a year of reformations, farewells and anniversaries on the live circuit. But of course, this one has to go to Refused. Seeing them reform and perform in London was not only one of the best nights of this year, but one of the best nights of my life. The Shape Of Punk To Come is almost fifteen years old, but is more relevant than ever today, and to see the legend that is Refused take to the stage once more is something that I will never, ever forget. Or likely experience again.
Best musical moment: I am awarding this one to Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! and the moment she announced to the world that she was transgender, and to the massive wave of support that she was given as soon as it all came out. While Grace’s bravery was incredible, it was just as amazing to see how supportive the punk scene – and the wider alternative spectrum – can be as well. Punk rock is all about being who you want to be, and it’s great to see that Laura Jane Grace feels free to let that happen. And now I’m ridiculously psyched for the new Against Me! album.
Two thousand and twelve will be remembered for many things- the downfall of Ian Watkins, the death of Sonisphere and the singer from Against Me!, who turned from a Mr to a Ms and sparked a worldwide gender debate in the process. It was the year metal opened its arms to pop and fully embraced the power of the hook with Torche and Baroness among others, subverting metal’s macho mannerisms and crafting albums of unashamed pomp and huge choruses. Billy Joe Armstrong conducted a very public PR stunt*cough-cough* stress-induced meltdown whilst drum n’ bass conquered the naysayers at Download Festival.
Two thousand and twelve was yet another year when some of the most influential bands decided to put aside their differences and finally cave in to the huge cheques being waved in front of their faces by promoters well aware that the reformation dollar is a very lucrative one indeed. Whatever their respective reasons, 2012 saw such luminaries as At The Drive-In taking a rather subdued attack to their intense post-hardcore whilst Refused finally did their seminal swansong The Shape Of Punk To Come justice and played to audiences hundreds of times larger than they did back in the day. Chris Cornell regained some credibility with the reformation of a grey-haired Soundgarden and the purveyors of doom Black Sabbath returned to spread the joy once again.
Best Live Band – Refused
I’ve seen so many great shows this year; chipping my tooth and suffering a very painful neck injury courtesy of a rather large stage diver at a particularly sweaty and chaotic Every Time I Die performance was definitely a night to remember. Meshuggah’s decimating and uncompromising aural assault in a large tent in a field in Kent at Hevy Fest was another. But the band who takes the biscuit has to be Refused. As they exploded into THAT riff from ‘New Noise’ at the London Forum in August there may well have been an earthquake occurring such was the seismic activity inside the venue. When the band played London almost fifteen years ago, they did so to only a few hundred people, and that was the biggest show of the tour. It speaks volumes of the bands impact on punk and hardcore and the high esteem in which they are held when, after almost fifteen years, they are selling out venues to thousands of people and playing to fields where the crowd stretches several kilometres into the distance. Yes, the reformation sparked controversy courtesy of the open letter they wrote to their fans after they split declaring that they were “fucking dead” but Refused’s classic punk message of anti-capitalism bears more relevance today than it ever did. What’s more, the band certainly knows how to put on a show, from the brilliant and highly effective use of minimalistic lighting to Dennis Lyxen taking on the role of showman rather than snot nosed punk. Through his physical contortions to his anguished scream and his mesmerizing onstage antics which usually end with the venue’s security looking rather nervous. Now though, the band truly is dead, but although the air of mysticism around the band has been largely eradicated, thousands upon thousands of avid fans witnessed their genius and the band’s message will live on for another generation at least.
Best Album – Deftones
There have been some great releases this year. South Wales bruisers Brutality Will Prevail’s threatened to become kings of the UK hardcore scene with their heavy as hell album Scatter The Ashes. Converge yet again upped the ante with All We Love We Leave Behind and Every Time I Die gave their southern fried hardcore a much needed shot of adrenaline to create the superb Ex-Lives. For sheer musical perfection though, Deftones finally crafted the album they’ve been trying to make for their whole twenty-five year existence. Although commonly and thoughtlessly lumped in with the nu-metal rap-metal nonsense of the late 90’s, Deftones were always a much more forward thinking and vastly more interesting and versatile entity. Koi No Yokan casts its net further afield than previous releases, pushing the bands experimentalist digressions to new depths whilst retaining cohesion and fluidity. The record contains some almighty off kilter 8-string riffs that would make Meshuggah jealous as well as vast soundscapes that range from the heavenly ethereal to the overcast doom. The balance between the decimating heaviness and breathtaking beauty is as close to perfection as you’re ever going to get, more so than 2010’s equally praised Diamond Eyes. Admittedly, the band aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but instead moulding their intensely emotional sound into a masterpiece that builds upon the successes and failures of their previous output. The most consistent band in metal just keeps getting better.
Best Newcomer – Darkshaft
You may have experienced this scenario – a gig in a tiny toilet venue on a desolate winters night in a dead end town where the few people in attendance look like they want to be anywhere other than this gig. Not even alcohol can curb your mind from wishing you were at home and curled up under a duvet like a slightly intoxicated baby. Without warning, a band takes to the stage and for half an hour they proceed to blow your socks off, as well as any other piece of clothing that isn’t securely fastened down. You stumble home trying to piece together what you’ve just witnessed, what’s more you struggle to remember the bands name, was it Darkcock? Darkschlong? ah yes, it was Darkshaft. The band is two guys, one on guitar and one on drums. Both posses screams Daryl Palumbo would be proud of and they boast a big back o’ riffs channelling everything from 50’s rock n’ roll to the sex-fuelled sweaty stomp of Death From Above 1979. Equally importantly, they posses an all important sense of humour oh, and they’re from New Zealand. They’ve only got a demo tape, a cassette, and a slightly punked-up cover of The Wonder’s ‘That Thing You Do’ to their name but with such virtuosic musicianship and beastly live performances expect to see heaps of praise for the demonic duo next year.
Best Band – Basement
2012’s best band is sadly one that doesn’t exist anymore. The UK underground was dealt a huge blow this year when Suffolk five-piece Basement decided to call it a day. This was even more so, because the band had just released Colourmeinkindness, a record of such creative brilliance and dare I say ‘maturity’ that it belied the young age of the band members, most of whom had only just reached their twenties. Their debut: 2011’s I Wish I Could Stay Here, won the hearts of kids throughout the underground with its wistful take on 90’s emo. After winning countless fans through touring places as far afield as the US and Australia it seemed the band were destined for great things and the speed at which the band’s two farewell shows sold out proved the amount of devotion the band had quite rightly garnered over their all too brief existence. Colourmeinkindness was a record of grunge throwbacks (the good type of grunge) and emo-isms (again, the good kind) that was not only heartbreakingly sincere but also wonderfully unique. As is the case when bands split up before they reach their creative peak there is an inescapable “what if?” that hangs over their dissolution. Certainly the band had the potential to graduate from the dingy toilet venues where they honed their sound and become a bonafied prospect on the UK’s rock scene. But lets no dwell on the “what ifs?” and instead celebrate a band who achieved so much in such a short space of time.
Best Musical Moment – Sabbath reign supreme at Download
The performance of rock legends Black Sabbath at this year’s Download festival was given added poignancy given that guitar hero Tony Iommi had been diagnosed with lymphoma only a few months previous to their performance. But in true metal fashion they soldiered on like the true rock Gods they are, producing a performance that belied not just their age but their collective drug consumption over their 40-or-so year existence. Ozzy, who by all accounts has defied medical science, was far from the shuffling and barely coherent star he is most known for. Instead his voice was powerful and his performance undeniably engaging whilst around him the two original members (minus drummer Bill Ward of course) provided their doom-laden take on blues, a sound which gave the world the blueprint for all of modern metal to follow. Sabbath are once again back in the public conscience as kings of heavy metal, and long may they reign.
Best Band – Green Day. While Billie Joe’s sad personal problems may have put a dampener on the end of their year, they went above and beyond in 2012 to make this the best year for the band’s fans it could possibly be, particularly us in the UK. Three (count them – 3!) new albums, suprise(ish) gigs at Shephard’s Bush Empire and Reading, and an under-appreciated but absolutely excellent debut UK tour of the stunning American Idiot musical, genuinely the best show I’ve ever seen.
Best Album – This is a tough award for me. Because, in all honesty, my favourite album released in 2012 was Weapons by Lostprophets, which is a controversial choice for obvious reasons. But while Watkins’ actions are to be abhorred, the other 5 members of the band should not be punished, and they have made a truly great album here. If this isn’t an appropriate choice for the award, then second place would go to Shinedown’s superb Amaryllis.
Best Newcomer: A combination of Brummie pride and pop-punk loyalty leads me to give this award to Taking Hayley. I honestly think that’s a name you’re going to hear a lot more of in 2013, particularly with their success at the UK Warped Tour and a headline tour already announced and selling well for February. Although an honourable mention must go to Fearless Vampire Killers – grandiose is not the word. Insane bunch, but fantastic music.
Best Live Act: Possibly another sentimental, Brummie choice from me, but having never thought I’d ever get a chance to see them in my lifetime, I can’t give this award to anybody except the almighty Black Sabbath. An incredible band making a much celebrated return this year, I saw them closing Download Festival and they absolutely blew me away, which is something considering my favourite band in the world, Metallica, had played the previous night. Their entire set, from their eponymous opening song to a thrilling Paranoid closer, was superbly crafted and Ozzy Osbourne is still the most incredibly entertaining frontman in music. Plus the mere fact that the performance took place after Tony Iommi’s battle with cancer was stunning and a wonderful moment for music.
Best Musical Moment: A pop-punk bias only gives me one possible answer: The announcement that finally, the UK was getting our own, proper, standalone Warped Tour date. Not as part of another festival, but a bonafide, independently organised, UK Warped Tour date. The organisation at the event, travelling between stages and rooms, was nothing less than awful, but that didn’t matter one bit – the atmosphere was incredible, the bands were brilliant (ignoring Blood On The Dance Floor, obviously) and New Found Glory were there. That’s all that matters. Superb news, and I eagerly await Warped Tour 2013 UK.