Ten Hardcore Bands That Do Actually Get It

I posted an article last week about misogyny in hardcore and just the general lack of respect for fellow human beings that’s running rampant throughout the scene at the moment. There’s certainly a lot of that going on. In honesty, my piece refers mostly to the mainstream – the branch of particularly popular hardcore bands that are dominating the magazines and the social networks at the moment. There’s a lot of bands out there that aren’t subscribing to this at all, that are striving for a community again, that are promoting a very healthy attitude at shows and through their music. Loosely based around the hardcore genre, but with a smattering of punk and metalcore, this is just ten of those bands promoting a better future for the scene. There’s a few more mainstream and a few more underground acts here, and these are the people we should be throwing our weight behind.

1) Finish Him!
Our favourite Coventry partycore lot know what’s going down. A Finish Him! show is always a ridiculously fun experience for everyone – everyone gets involved, everyone keeps each other safe. You’re far more likely to end the set in a massive group hug than with a punch in the face (although that’s mostly just to keep yourself standing after some intense moshing!). And many of their song names are references to classic kid’s shows and video games, which is always a bonus.

2) We Came As Romans
Everyone’s new favourite synthy metalcore band, they don’t have a bad word to say about anyone. Their albums are all about positivity, and their recent slot on the Take Action tour in support of the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign couldn’t paint them as any more angelic. If you’re ever feeling down, listen to Understanding What We Came To Be and you’ll instantly feel better about life.

3) Parkway Drive
Okay, ‘Romance Is Dead’ might be about wanting to choke the life out of a former loved one, but we can all say we’ve had those moments at one point or another. Otherwise, Parkway Drive take their anger out on more noble causes, such as our rampant destruction of the Earth. Atlas is all about the potential demise of our planet if we don’t buck up our ideas. Parkway are also massive fans of the circlepit, but only if you treat each other with respect. And we will, Winston and co, we will.

4) iwrestledabearonce
Ever been to an IWABO show? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t. Me and Kate threw many a pencil sharpener and a few egg and spoons the last time we were in the general vicinity. It’s also super rad to see such an incredible female vocalist in play in both cases – Krysta’s screams were utterly sublime and I figured there’d never be anyone who could replace her, but Courtney has done pretty admirably, bringing just as much flair and insanity to their live presence as Krysta did. It’s pretty hard to make out exactly what they’re saying though sometimes, so pick up a lyrics booklet and appreciate.

5) The Smoking Hearts
Victory! is a great record. It’s a real snapshot of life in the 2010s, but without subscribing to the bullshit. There’s plenty of stuff in there about standing up tall and rising above, but THS aren’t afraid to party on down with the rabble either. Sick guitar solos aside, THS bring it in every way possible in a live format, but while being perfectly pleasant to everyone around them. Top lads.

6) Sick Of It All
Have you ever listened to a Sick Of It All album and thought ‘well, I can see where they’re coming from but I just can’t identify with this in any way, shape or form’? I thought not.

Skatepunk enthusiasts DARKO blend the Duracell bunny energy of that 90s sound with technical hardcore for an unbeatable thrill ride. From Trust To Conformity has a lot of anger and frustration in it, but it’s pointed in all the right directions, and a lot more poetic than you might first think. Get listening, get excited.

8) Attack! Vipers!
I literally can’t express my love for Attack! Vipers! enough. Completely standup guys with an explosive live show (high risk of human pyramids included) and stupidly talented musicians to boot. Feeling bad about popular hardcore and its shitty attitude? Have a scroll through the Attack! Vipers! Tumblr page and you’ll see posts speaking out against discrimination and injustice, in the scene and wider. Great stuff.

9) Empire
Shedding Skin is a slice of crashing, beautiful melodic hardcore. The desolate landscapes that it describes and the feelings of discontent and fear are ones that are applicable to all of us. Back in the early 2000s, most of the bands doing this kind of thing were writing songs crying about how girls had wronged them. Empire take a far different approach and we love them for it.

10) Not Right
Definitely more punk than hardcore, but it’d feel wrong to write a piece about solidarity and community without including Not Right. Queer riot grrl noise with a focus on trans issues, general activism and, in their own words, “the politic of people before profit”. And well, they definitely play loud and fast enough to fit in on this list.

Review: TwoBeatsOff at Download 2013

Traditionally, I do big reviews of whatever festivals I’ve been to that summer. I’ve done Reading since TBO’s inception. I’ve done a few mini ones across the UK. I’ve never done Download in its full glory before. For that reason, and for others which will become clear, it’s kind of impossible to give it the same treatment. Did I watch a lot of bands? Well, yes. I certainly didn’t approach it in the same way as other festivals though. So this isn’t a review – it’s more like a retelling, a recreation. In essence, it’s a glorified blog post, but people make money out of that these days. Any remorse that I have is buried under my filthy festival lanyard.

I rocked up on the Thursday on a ridiculously late coach. In all fairness, this wasn’t Big Green Coach’s fault, and their operators on the other end dealt with my panicky self very helpfully. The return journey is another thing entirely, but we’ll get to that later. Fuelled by caffeine and sausage rolls, I hauled my camping gear through the Village and into the White campsite to discover that I was the first out of my friends to arrive and proceeded to set up. Have I told you that I hate camping before? I probably have, but just in case – I hate it. I especially hate festival camping, with its lack of viable showers, the people roaming around the campsite yelling ‘BUTTSCRATCHER!’ until about 6am and the fact that I never drive so I can’t bring an airbed and end up with a rock in my back at some point. It’s not cool. This festival, I was a total dumbass and only brought half a tent, so my Download experience began with me sitting on top of my rucksack, my head in my hands, deflecting blame onto my sister and father for not putting the tent away properly and swearing lots. Eventually, the rest of the team showed up and I went with Kate to go and buy a tent for the extortionate price of £50. I made sure it was purple to compensate for my fuck up, because what do I do when I’m in a bit of a jam? Accessorise. Surprisingly, the two man wasn’t that shabby. We built a gazebo. Beers were consumed. (still edge, in case you were wondering). New people were met. It was nice and chilled, and I don’t just mean the temperature. I can’t go to one of these things without a stupid amount of stress normally; there’s always some catastrophe, or it’s raining like mad, or I get panicky about something because I’m a hotbed of social anxiety when it suits me. This time was really great though, and perhaps it’s the huge difference in attitude to other places I’ve been to. I’m not saying that metalheads can’t be elitist pricks – they can be the biggest of them all, but it stems from a passion that indie hipsters just don’t have a handle on. And the less flowery headbands I have to see, the better.

Friday was for one thing, and one thing only – HIM. Throughout my adolescence, I became obsessed with the Finnish five piece. From 2002-2008, they rivalled AFI in my affections. I still can quote the entirety of the HIM vs Bam DVD verbatim, and do so far too often with Kate. And yet unlike her, I kind of grew out of HIM. I was disappointed by Dark Light and subsequently didn’t dig Venus Doom that much, I dove deeper and deeper into Midwestern beard punk and I went through a massive break up – the significance being was that HIM was the reason that we connected in the first place. HIM became a relic for me, albeit a fond one, and I placed their albums with the reverence they deserved back onto the shelf. Kate never quit though and she arguably boasts one of the biggest HIM collections in the UK. The girl ordered twelve different versions of Tears On Tape. TWELVE. Just let that sink in. When we found out that they were doing a signing… sweet Jesus. The arena opened at midday, we went straight to the signing tent, we queued for four hours in the pouring rain. I was kind of nervous though. What could I say to Ville Valo, the man who sang the soundtrack to my teenage emotions? To Linde, who was the reason that I chose an SG for my first guitar? In the end, with Kate quaking behind me, I was ridiculously polite, but to Ville, I said in what can only be described as a vaguely sleazy tone, “‘Iya Ville, y’alright? Looking forward to the set later, it’s been a while.” I regret nothing. They were lovely gentlemen. I met some really fantastic people in the queue, even if I felt like a bit of a charlatan stood next to them. These were kids whose favourite band ever was HIM – and I certainly wasn’t a lifer. With a signed copy of Razorblade Romance clutched in my grubby mitts, we headed straight for the Pepsi Max stage.

I got the opportunity to check out some new bands that afternoon as we waited for the HIM set. In This Moment, a female fronted metal band with some crazy stage set ups and costume were there when we arrived. The dress was a little bit Lady Gaga, but if there’s one thing I love about metal, it’s the pageantry. Sweaty boys in sweaty basements are definitely my thing, but sometimes, you just need to go all out, and In This Moment were certainly a lot of fun. Turisas’ self-styled ‘battle metal’ proved to be just as compelling. Sometimes, you just need songs about being a Viking. The kids liked it anyway – a little boy who couldn’t have been more than about eight sat proudly on his dad’s shoulder, battleaxing to every song. Hero. I was pleasantly surprised by Motionless In White, having previously dismissed them as ‘scene trash’ akin to Black Veil Brides. However, their specific brand of metalcore is heavy with synths and light on the bullshit. Lead vocalist Chris Cerulli looks much better in a skirt than I do, and their live performance has an energy that’s infectious. To use my dad’s classic catchphrase (note: you have to say it in a Cumbrian accent), ‘great stuff!’ I shamefully had never seen Converge live before Download, and it was a decision that I immediately regretted. Jake Bannon and co have an intensity that’s hard to capture and even harder to channel – those time signatures were not made for headbanging – but is impossible to take your eyes and ears off. These guys were the pioneers of metalcore, and they showed everyone how it was done.

I never did see HIM that many times in my youth. Twice – once at Ozzfest at Download in 2005 and then on the Dark Light tour in 2006. It felt so good to sing along to songs I had forgotten I loved. Less talkative than I’ve seen them before, but no less charismatic, they went for a setlist filled with classics as well as newer material. The best thing though, asides from the rugs on the floor and the mirrorball, was the inclusion of It’s All Tears (Drown In This Love). Arguably my favourite HIM song, I was screaming along like a right little fangirl. Having cut down on the cigarettes somewhat, Ville instead took to playing an acoustic for a lot of the set. The more frequent inclusion of acoustic elements in their tracks is a direction that I’m really liking, and I’ll definitely be picking up Tears On Tape when I’ve got some spare cash to flash. My camera is filled with more pictures of HIM than of anything else, and skipping through the half blurred shots, I stumble upon one of Ville with a look of deep contemplation on his face and it just sums the whole set up completely – HIM are ready to take back the throne. I’m excited for the autumn tour, to say the least.

We decided that we’d take Saturday fairly easy. There would be sitting – we had stood up for a total of about thirteen hours without taking a break the day before. Do you remember when you were sixteen, and you’d get to the venue about five hours early, queue so that as soon as the doors opened, you’d run and get to the front centre barrier and it wouldn’t even cause you to think twice? I don’t really, as the searing pain in my calves indicated. One thing that Download made me realise is that I need to get back to the gym. Oh boy. We spent a rainy morning in the tent reading Pick Me Up and doing the arrow-words while battering a packet of Jaffa Cakes. What can I say? There was nothing great on until later. Our first band of the day was Empress. They weren’t too shabby. Your basic kind of alt-rock, slightly Muse influenced but with a heavier edge. They all looked so young! Heart Of A Coward were typically raucous and bouncy. I wonder if all hardcore/deathcore bands get their banners and graphics designed by the same person, because they all look the same except with different letters. Either way, lots of heavy breakdowns, lots of fun. Bury Tomorrow carried on that theme, and it’s easy to see why they’ve had so much praise heaped their way lately. Slamming their way through a stellar set with lots of energy and a knack for killer hooks, they had the crowd pleading for more at the end of their set – the first time I’d seen that weekend. Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats have a very 70s feel. Stoner doom with a touch of rock and roll, they were loud. There was a lot of bass. It’s great chill out stuff, but not necessarily the kind of thing you’re that enthused about seeing at a festival. Chthonic were a total surprise. The Taiwanese metallers had brought a mini Thai orchestra with them and proceeded to hammer out anthem after anthem, all while dressed up like space age warriors. Because why the hell not? My highlight of the Saturday, and indeed, one of my highlights of the whole festival, were Kvelertak. I’d been introduced to them in passing a few months prior; they’d appeared in someone’s Spotify notifications on Facebook and I’d thought ‘huh, why not’. The best way to describe Kvelertak is to imagine Andrew WK singing in Norwegian with less piano and more black metal. It’s party rock with a terrifying intensity. Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik showed up with no shirt and a freaking owl helmet, and was diving into the crowd at every opportunity. That’s not to say that the rest of the band weren’t rocking out just as hard, but they didn’t quite have the same disregard for personal safety. The next morning, my bangover (you know, that horrible neckache you get the morning after a night of proper headbanging) was in full force, but it was so, so worth it. And then we went back to the tent because we give no fucks about Iron Maiden. Sorry, Bruce, I like your son better.

Sunday was hot. And I had donuts for breakfast. These are two excellent things. We went to the arena early to catch The First. The King’s Lynn five piece are well on their way to greatness, combining their wonderfully melodic and layered take on pop-laced post-hardcore with an absolutely explosive performance. Especially well done as it was proper early. Nice one, lads. We decided to do a bit of festival shopping before winding our way back into the crowd for Five Finger Death Punch. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan. If the vocals didn’t have any clean bits, then maybe, but they have too many so I’m generally like ‘whatevz.’ However, lead singer Ivan did pull up a bunch of kids – and I mean kids no older than 12 – on stage who sat there flipping the bird and singing along to every word, and I couldn’t help but think that was pretty cool. But they’re no Parkway Drive. I fucking love Parkway Drive. I have ever since the Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em EP, and it’s been an absolute pleasure watching them rise and rise. Atlas was totally my favourite album last year and if you’ve never been to a Parkway show, then I implore you – get on that. It’s always a ridiculous amount of fun. The band themselves are flawless – every note is dead on, every drum beat is precise, Winston McCall’s vocals are just as brutal as on record. And they do it all with a massive smile on their faces. We didn’t really watch Stone Sour. We ate pulled pork sandwiches and I complained about how Corey Taylor didn’t know what he was doing with his hair. (For the uninitated, one time when we were coming back from a night out, in all seriousness, I announced “So, Corey Taylor has long hair when he’s in Slipknot and short hair when he’s in Stone Sour. This is a conscious decision. Right? Right?” For the record – still straight edge.) I had my mind kind of blown by Ghost. I wasn’t expecting a parade of dudes in massive black cloaks, and then a singer dressed up like some kind of satanic reverse Pope. And I certainly wasn’t expecting doom and black influenced metal with some proper soulful vocals and a ton of synths. But I liked it. I liked it a lot. I didn’t like it enough to purchase the special edition of Infestissumam with the butt plug, but enough to plump for the regular one. Sorry, Papa Emeritus. We hung out on the grass while Airborne yelled loudly – they’re alright, and highly preferable to AC/DC because there are no twenty minute long guitar solos, but it’s not really for me. Neither are A Day To Remember, no matter how hard I try to like them. Theoretically, they’re my ideal band – they’re like New Found Glory but with heavier breakdowns. I just can’t get on with it though! That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate their set at all – t-shirt cannons, toilet roll wars and the most insane display of crowdsurfing I’ve seen in years were all a lot of fun to witness. They clearly love what they do and a lot of other people love it too.

Limp Bizkit, on a scale of one to awesome, were the shit. From the minute Fred and co bounced out and slammed into the opening riff of Rollin’, it was clear that we were in for the best party of the weekend. And party we did. Throwing some serious shapes, Kate and I shook our booties through a classic Bizkit set. They even brought up a guy who sang on stage with them at Download FOUR YEARS AGO to do it again – and he picked Half Nelson. Hero. Otherwise, Break Stuff! Nookie! Faith! My Way! Take A Look Around! Fred Durst’s MASSIVE beard! Wes being cool as! Sam’s light up bass! SO MUCH TURNTABLE! How much more do you need to know how brilliant this was?! I don’t think I’ve had so much fun outdoors before. We missed most of Rammstein, but we got there just in time to see Till spraying some dude dressed up in BDSM gear with fake jizz. There was a small girl dancing on top of a bin that saw it as well. Aces.

If my Download experience had ended there, it would have been the best weekend ever. Alas, it didn’t, and I had to wait an hour and a half for my coach because Big Green Coach were so disgustingly disorganised. We could have left at least half an hour before we did, and after being loaded onto the wrong coach twice (!) and then missing my bus home because I got to my drop off ninety minutes late, I spent my Monday being ridiculously miserable. I guess that’s a lesson learnt – check your tent properly, drive there instead and potentially pack appropriate reading material. But otherwise, I think that Download will become my festival of choice. Varied enough to keep even the most sceptical rock fan happy and with a spirit of fun unlike any other, Download rocked pretty hard.

The ‘Teaser’ Trend And Why It Should Go To Hell

I spend a disproportionate amount of time on Facebook. I can’t help it, I’m a member of the internet generation. In between stalking random people that I’ve never met (to decide whether or not I would care to meet them) and raging at Candy Crush Saga, I like to flick through my news feed to see what all the different bands I’ve started following are up to. And you know what most of them are doing? Posting thirty second teaser trailers for four minute videos.

That’s what Parkway Drive did for their latest video. Parkway Drive are a successful metalcore band from Australia with a very attractive frontman and they sell out venues. For me, the teaser trailer is a pointless exercise. It didn’t showcase anything about the video at all, just showing a few performance shots. Here’s the video:

There’s nothing overly special about the video, really; it’s a performance video, where everyone is a bit dirty. At least Epitaph had the good sense to release the teaser just a few days before the actual video, therefore not losing any hype generated in the mean time. But see, this is where Parkway Drive and the vast majority of my timeline differ; Parkway Drive are well established and extremely popular. The other bands have barely got their first demos out of the stable. If you’ve never even released a song, don’t post up a trailer that’s comprised of twenty per cent of your first unknown music video! Trust me – nobody cares unless you’re yet another one of Trent Reznor’s projects. The same goes for posting snippets of songs online. The best way to preview one of your releases is to post up a complete song, rather than ten seconds of each, smooshed together to a montage of terrible press photos. Come on, bands of Facebook – you are better than this. I know you are, and I want to believe in you, but this is like when you go to a restaurant and they give you complimentary bread – in this scenario, the bread is stale and some kind of weird multigrain that you’d never normally consider eating, and you’d much rather be chowing down on the delicious meaty steak (or delicately balanced mushroom risotto, if that’s more your deal) that is your new song.

There’s a few bands out there doing it right. AFI, for example, if you’ll forgive my total and absolute bias. AFI are potentially releasing new material in September. It’s not even totally clear that’s what’s happening. So far, they’ve released three videos. One follows Davey walking down a corridor wearing the most badass jacket I’ve ever seen, accompanied by a voiceover of him speaking some potential lyrics which sound darker than anything he’s written since Sing The Sorrow, until he enters a practice room where the rest of the band are waiting. Davey takes the mic, the music’s about to kick in when it fades out and all we know is SEPTEMBER. Ohhh, baby. The other two are weirder than Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham’s little murder family in Hannibal right now. Numbers chanted over images of circles and girls and people with their heads wrapped in sheets. If you’re a fairly hardcore AFI fan, you might remember their short film Clandestine and the number of theories that then became attached to the lyrical concepts of Sing The Sorrow. (If you aren’t and you don’t, it’s worth listening the album from Bleed Black onwards, not ignoring the bonus track, which then puts The Leaving Songs in order and follows concepts about a cyclical nature of life and death. It’s kind of creepy. And awesome.) These videos are creating a total frenzy amongst AFI fans and a significant amount of WTF from everyone else, all of which is extremely useful publicity, and because AFI are a very well known band, it works.

This isn’t to say that an unknown band couldn’t pull of something like this, because it’s intriguing. It’s potentially a little bit pretentious and a little bit of an ego stroke, but you’re in a band. Take those self-indulgent teaser trailers, cram them where the sun doesn’t shine and play around with something a little more crazy. You owe it to yourself and your fans (or your potential ones, if you’re yet to have any) to stand out from the crowd and try something different. So before you click ‘upload’ on that thirty-second preview of your reasonably ordinary music video, think – the best of your act can’t be showcased in thirty seconds. Unless you’re Limp Wrist, and then your best songs can always be showcased in under thirty seconds because the whole thing usually is. But chances are, you’re not, so show us the whole fucking video.

TwoBeatsOff’s Best of 2012

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.

Live: Never Say Die! 2010 – O2 Academy Birmingham, 31/10/10

The minute I stepped through the door, I thought ‘I shouldn’t be here’. It was Halloween, Kitteh and I thought that we should do something because neither of us could do our usual respective Halloween activities and we chanced upon Parkway Drive and Comeback Kid touring together. “You wanna do it?” “Hell yeah I wanna do it!” and the tickets were booked. But stepping through the doors, into a barrage of scene mullets, fat girls with too much eyeliner and brightly coloured band t-shirts (seriously, what happened to black?), was almost too much to handle. I guess I forgot that hardcore is a bit ridiculous these days.

At the merch stand, Kitteh got major props from Bleeding Through’s super awesome keyboardist Marta (“That necklace is soooo cool, where did you get it?!” “To be honest, Claire’s… the Halloween stuff is surprisingly good.” “No way!!”), I picked up a bitchin’ Comeback Kid shirt and we kicked back, relaxed, paid far too much for a VK and a coke and waited for the next band to come on, having already missed We Came As Romans, who I’m sure were very good as they had dinosaurs on their t-shirts. Your Demise, who to my surprise were British, came on and we ventured on in. Despite being just the second band on, they had a lot of support from the audience who two-stepped and floor-punched their way into a frenzy. Your Demise are great hardcore – absolutely full of energy with enough melody to actually make a song while still being heavy as fuck. They’re not too serious, but it was clear that there was a lot more depth than just ‘mosh mosh mosh’ in their sound. War From A Harlot’s Mouth were up next, but they didn’t leave a lasting impression. They were vaguely akin to Caliban, so in other words, heavy German metalcore. You get the picture.

Emmure, however, were something incredible. Glorious deathcore hailing from various parts of the US, they shocked and awed the crowd with an amazing performance. Vocalist Frankie Palmeri has a voice that sounds like a bowel movement in his throat – deep, distressing and potentially cathartic. Emmure are an insanely intense band; every song is like a direct assault. There’s no bullshit either; the band’s there to play, not chat to the teenies on the front row. I wasn’t in the mosh, but I believed it to be brutal, much like the sound coming out of the speakers. It’s impressive stuff, so definitely check them out if they’re over again.

Bleeding Through are a band that Kitteh and I have been waiting to see for a while. And oh man, they were definitely the heaviest band of the night. Marta is just so impressive to behold – the headbanging whilst rocking the keyboards was so intense she probably got some kind of concussion. The songs from the latest release sound amazing and the band were on top form. They’re so typically American though – Brandon says thank you after every song, everything’s posi until they tell us they’re enemies of everything and I dunno, it gave the set a bit of a weird feel. However, it’s forgivable because Brandon is ridiculously beef. So so beef.

Comeback Kid are also in the same boat – they’re a band I’ve been wanting to see for absolutely ages. And they delivered, holy shit they delivered. They also played a lot from their latest release and the new songs sound great; that perfect mix of crushing yet melodic hardcore that Comeback Kid are renowned for. I got a bit too excited when they played Broadcasting. The sound wasn’t as good for Comeback Kid as it should have been – the levels were a bit off, but nevertheless, it was an exciting set. While they may not be quite as fun to watch as bands like Your Demise and headliners Parkway Drive (who to be fair, are just mental), they’re certainly captivating. Not the best set of the evening but pretty damn close.

The best set of the evening, truly, must be reserved for Parkway Drive. It may have been their first time in Birmingham, but they owned the venue entirely. The set was divided into two halves – they played songs from Deep Blue, the new album first, and then a mix from Horizons and Killing With A Smile. When I say two halves, I literally mean that – a quick break in the set to change the back drop, put out some palm trees and to try and make it feel a bit more like Byron Bay. Dinghies and beach balls all inclusive too. The sound was sorted out entirely and every note in Winston’s growl was audible all the way to the back. Parkway Drive are excellent showmen – there was a mini circle pit on stage, they got the crowd going insane over an Australian football and you felt like you were part of something grander. The inclusion of older songs in the set was pretty impressive, especially Romance Is Dead and Guns For Show, Knives For A Pro, which sounded amazing. As a devotee to Killing With A Smile, I was happy. When I say I’ve never seen anything quite like it, that’s not hyperbole, that’s fact – Parkway Drive are just insane live, and insanely good at that. The new giants of hardcore are here.