MR Editor-in-Chief, Peter Keevil, looks back at 2012.
It’s been another quality year of activity at Midlands Rocks. 2012 was a year that the Blues, Rock & Metal industry truly started to take our regional online publication seriously, as we gained higher rankings and increased traffic through a dedicated effort from a gaggle of contributors and photographers that just wanted to talk about what they loved – rock n roll. But not to just ‘talk’ about it but to do so with a considered opinion and knowledge that has lead tens of thousands of readers, predominately from around the Midlands region in the UK to visit and return to read, listen and view every single month.
It’s a year that has seen us post some 240 live gig reviews, around 300 CD reviews, over 90 podcasts, 160 features and interviews, and nearly 1,000 news articles. And that’s not forgetting over 7,000 gig and interview photos capturing the moment. And breathe.
January is usually a slow month on the live front, with only the latter half getting busy with a post-Christmas gigging season kicking in. But it did give us a chance to catch up on some CD reviews and also to prep our brand new website that would launch in February.
While Van Halen were posting their first video single from yet another DLR comeback, the soon to be renamed, Toxic Federation, were announcing their new singer, a certain Mr Nick Whitcroft.
Other bands that hit the ground running early in the year included, Asking Alexandra, M83, Jesus Jones, Four Year Strong and All Time Low. While twin-guitar nostalgia veterans, Thin Lizzy closed the month with their relentless gigging schedule.
Elsewhere, Kiss, Queen & Faith No More were announced as headliners for the ill-fated Sonisphere Festival. A festival that has recently announced that it will not return to the UK until at least 2014.
On the Midlands festival front both Download, Bloodstock and Firefest announced bands to play.
CD reviews flew in thick and fast… highlights included:
Dakesis – Trial by Fire; Orange Goblin – A Eulogy for the Damned; RAM – Death; Jon Amor Blues Group – Debut album; Lamb of God – Resolution; Clare Free – Dust and Bones; Wolfsbane – Wolfsbane Save The World; Nightwish – Imaginarium; Lee Small – Jamaica Inn;
February saw the launch of our new website (the one you are now reading). Many an hour went in to prepping the site for launch but because of all the links pointing to our content a strategic decision was made to keep the old site at www.midlandsrocks.co.uk as an archive and to launch with a new URL – TheMidlandsRocks.com. The new site is more robust (i.e paid for!) and allows for greater sharing and discussion via comments and social plugins. Its also easier to navigate and search and since it already contains over 1,500 articles, that’s very important.
On then live front, German rockers, Edguy opened the month at the HMV. While AOR festival Z Rock announced its 2 day line-up for The Robin in Bilston. Meanwhile Nottingham saw the effervescent, Young Guns, light up the Rescue Rooms.
The Treatment brought their medicinal services to Wolverhampton in a year that would see them play Download and then tour the US with Motley Crue and Kiss. Meanwhile Shinedown played the first of a number of Midlands dates in 2012 with a stunning show at Rock City.
Jeff Scott Soto spared us some of his precious time to speak about his latest album, Damage Control. While Black Crowes legend, Rich Robinson travelled to Shropshire with his own project and spoke with Midlands Rocks. Veteran girl-band Girlschool, broke news of a fresh tour and re-issue of Hit & Run.
Late February saw the arrival of RAMMSTEIN to the area with dates in Birmingham and Nottingham. The fact that Midlands Rocks was now getting press accreditation for this level of gig gave us all a big boost as we knew it would grant us a biggest audience and also help us push the underground talent that was pushing through across the region.
Our thoughts on studio releases saw the likes of these fine bands cross our CD drives… M.A.D.I.S.O.N – Diary Of Our Days; Kev Bayliss – The Project; Jeff Scott Soto – Damage Control; Dear Superstar – Damned Religion; Soen – Cognitive; Hail Spirit Noir – Pneuma
March is the first real proper month of the year, as tours start to roll over ground and the studio release schedule starts to squeeze up and work the post-Christmas wallets. It would see us cover over 40 gigs but it started with Midlands legends, Napalm Death celebrating the re-issue of the seminal SCUM.
The MR team hit the venues across the Midlands to cover the delights of… Beholder, Band of Skulls, Dakota Beats, The Answer, Black Stone Cherry, Killing Joke, Chimaira, Amon Amarth, Cannibal Corpse, Jack Bruce & Richie Kotzen too name a few…
Whilst the CD reviewers were also on fire with praise and scorn being cast in equal measure across a whole raft of releases, that included… Huntress – Spell Eater; Blacklisters – BLKLSTRS; Aceldama – Aceldama; Shinedown – Amarylis; Rich Robinson – Through A Crooked Sun; Romeo’s Daughter – Rapture; Dakota Beats – The Tides Will Turn; Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme; Decapitated – Carnival is Forever.
Sonisphere finally called it a day and cancelled their Knebworth event. Kim Hooker parted company with Tigertailz, Tony Iommi issued an update regarding his health as he continues to battle cancer, and Evile, Marionette, Furyon and Derision were added to the Bloodstock bill.
March also saw plenty of interviews as bands turned on the publicity machines. We spoke with these fine people… Matt Gilmore of SKAM; Jill Janus of Huntress; John Blaze of Arabia; Michael Bormann; Al Barrow of Magnum; Jost Kleinert of Lay Down Rotten; Luke Morley of The Union; Paul Mahon of The Answer;
April started off with the gloriously named, Fukpig, who issued their 3rd album, aptly named 3.
Elsewhere, HEAT addressed the nation; Job For A Cowboy released Demoncracy; Hellish Outcast suggested that Your God Will Bleed; while that other god – Joe Bonamassa – released a DVD Live From New York Beacon Theatre.
FireFest started the month by stating that the Friday night session had sold out, those Tamworth Terrors, Wolfsbane announced their UK tour, while Download, Beermageddon; Z Rock and Bloodstock Festivals continued to make line-up announcements. Local indie-rock sensations, The Enemy, announced dates at Coventry’s Cathedral Ruins.
Wolvo favourites, The Whiskey Syndicate told us about their new single and album, and while our social networks were buzzing about the 75% Sabbath v. Bill Ward debate, the band announced their home town warm-up date at O2 Academy in May in preparation for their appearance at Download Festival in early June. Magnum confirmed their UK tour off the back of their new album 13th Day, whilst Napalm Death released a remastered Harmony Corruption.
Jason got on a roll by chatting with some of extreme metal’s finest including – Dan Briggs of Troscapes; Rob Barrett of Cannibal Corpse and Bruno Fernades of The Firstborn; while Rob, Rachel and Peter caught up with… Tom DeLonge of Angels & Airwaves; Midlands band Of The Night; Mike Miley of Rival Sons; Matt Barnes of You Me At Six and Iain Mahanty of Kids In Glass Houses.
Some quality bands made their way through the Midlands in April and the team was again out in force to share the joys of a live rock n roll show with you. Joe Bonamassa made his regular pilgrimage to Nottingham; Angels & Airwaves joined him in playing the East side of our region while the West side proved ever popular with touring bands… Narareth; Meshuggah; The Whiskey Syndicate; IO Earth; Twin Atlantic and Ian Anderson all made our nights pleasurable ones. Even Dave Hill of Slade put in a rare personal appearance at PMT Music Store in Birmingham.
Ok, May wasn’t all about Black Sabbath but who can ignore Metal’s biggest, playing a comeback show in their home town, with Tony Iommi also fighting the biggest battle of and for his life. With Press Passes more rare than Woody at a Gojira fanfest, the MR team took to the phones to try and secure one of only a couple of thousand tickets. Success, Dean Pedley, had the golden touch and duly returned his live review within minutes of Sabbath leaving the stage of the O2 Academy in Birmingham.
As with any live gig, it’s all about the anticipation and then the moment, 90 minutes or so of rock n roll (technical) ecstasy. But that is ALL it is, just one moment, and May brought many other fine moments across the Midlands.
Z Rock brought a gaggle of AORsters to the Robin in Bilston for one and two days of fun. Reading’s finest, Sylosis, swept through Wolverhampton early in May, joined by some other fine gigs across the region… Michael Schenker, Matt Black, We Are Augustines, Delain, Morrowfest continued its rise @ Rock City, White Widdow, Gary Numan, and not to mention Guns n Roses still running late in Nottingham.
The MR team managed to sneak backstage and talk with a few these touring acts, including, Chris Gould of Serpentine; Jules Millis of White Widdow; Step in Fluid and Dave McGraw of Cattle Decapitation.
Shiny bits of plastic passed through the grubby mits of the Album review team and May’s highlights included… Europe – Bag of Bones; The Reasoning – And Another Thing…; Astra – The Black Chord; Tyketto – Dig in Deep: and Allegaeon – Formshifter, among many others.
In other non-Sabbath news, The Darkness announced a new album; left-of-centre avant-garde Supersonic Festival unleashed its initial line-up; Ginger announced his pledge music, industry defining album 100%; Midlands favourites Ned’s Atomic Dustbin launched news of their Xmas show; Brit Pop also-rans Blur planned to play Wolvo for a couple of nights; Midlands born blues-merchant, Jo Shaw Taylor issued news of her forthcoming Almost Always Never album; while Basement Fest issued its line-up and Beermageddon announced Def Con One as a headline act.
June – As we approach half way through 2012 we hit the first festival of the year and it’s the biggie – Download. 3, 4 or 5 days (depending on your take) of rock n roll debauchery, mud, beer and more mud. In the run up, the MR team busily arranged interviews with any bleeder that would talk to us and others beside. We strategically place key individuals throughout the arena to capture and record as many live reviews as possible but most importantly we pack our wellies!
In 2012, Download was nearly cancelled! Well at least on the Friday. Rain prior to the show rendered the ground into a quagmire. Rumours abound but we heard talk that emergency crews could not get to their positions and gain appropriate access should there have been an emergency. And with the likes of Pukkelpop stage collapses in 2011, that access is vital. The Download Ground Crew worked through the night to improve conditions and at some time late Friday morning emergency services approved the show to go ahead. Outside traffic snarled up, the M1 being a big culprit as it took hours for bands, management and of course, fans to meander along the Derbyshire country roads towards Castle Donington. Early bands had their sets cut completely but finally the show did go on at around 1pm on Friday.
Needless to say interview schedules went out of the window as the PR darlings from London failed to show, leaving the only recourse for confused media types (Peter & Tony) to grab anyone that would talk to them – regardless of whether we knew who they were or not!
Interviews: Halestorm; Six Hour Sundown; Million Dollar Reload; Fear Factory; No Americana; Skarlett Riot; Europe; Fozzy; The Treatment; Rival Sons; Heavens Basement; Black Spiders; Broken; Kopek; Richie Faulkner (Judas Priest); Turbonegro; Soil.
And just to prove that we didn’t just park the bus in Donington during June, here’s some other highlights passing through the gates of MRHQ…
Interviews with Serpentine & Mortillery. Live reviews of: I Am I; Stuka Squdron; Gojira; Bernie Marsden; Panic Room; Malevolent Creation and Chris Cornell. While big new releases included, Slash; Jettblack; Winter In Eden; Black Wolf; Gun; The Hip Priests; Jenx and Oli Brown.
Part 2 – July – Dec 2012 coming soon…
Plus we speak to Midlands bands about their 2012 and hopes for 2013.