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get ready to ROCK! Best of 2005
Our reviewers have supplied their 'Best Of' before retiring gracefully from 2005 with a lemonade shandy and plate of salmon sandwiches...

Check out what our pop pundits think...

Jason Ritchie

1 Kino - Picture

Simply wonderful! Features members of Arena, It Bites, Marillion & Porcupine Tree.

2 Power Quest - Magic Never Dies

The band's third album and they just keep getting better!

STEVE WILLIAMS (POWER QUEST)

1) What are you doing musically at the moment? (gigs, writing, recording etc)

Well, we have just completed part one of our "Live Magic" Uk tour, culminating in appearances at Firefest 2 and the Marquee club in London. We had a great week playing our first shows with Francesco on drums and the response from the crowds were incredible!

Between now and the new year I will be starting to get ideas together for the next Power Quest record.

2) What were your main achievement(s) in 2005?

I think the recording, release and reviews of the third Power Quest album "Magic Never Dies". The feedback we have received has been incredible and the new songs have been extremely well received on the live front.

3) Any disappointments?

Not really, no. I guess it is still a source of frustration to us that we have yet to play in Europe but we are working very hard to put that matter right...as we speak! hehe!

4) What were your own favourite albums, of 2005?

One of my favourite records has been Gamma Ray's "Majestic" album, a real return to form for Kai and his band of merry men. Awesome record!

5) What are you planning musically in 2006?

Lots more Power Quest live action and the writing of the next Power Quest album.....should keep me occupied! LOL!

6) In an ideal world which band(s) would you like to see back and touring next year?

Van Halen! hehe! Although I guess the chances would be pretty slim. I'd also like to see Cinderella play in the UK.....or at least in Europe!

3 Paul Liddell - The Lighthouse Keeper's Diary

Superb singer/songwriter who is streets ahead of James Blunt.

4 Arena - Pepper's Ghost

Again they match their own high standards.

5 Anna Nalick - Wreck of the Day

Lovely voice, neat lyrics - one to watch.

Re-releases

1 Queen & Paul Rodgers - Live

2 Fish - Best Of

3 FM - Long Lost Friends

4 ELO - Best Of

5 Ian Brown - The Greatest

Gigs

1 Styx - Hammersmith Apollo

2 Kansas - Shepherd’s Bush Empire

3 Dio - Astoria

4 Sacred Heart - Stripes, Brentford FC

5 Queen + Paul Rodgers - Wembley Arena

Pete Whalley

Missy Higgins - The Sound Of White - debut of the year from the most exciting new female singer-songwriter in years. The best thing to come from the southern hemisphere since Kylie’s butt. Good on ya, sport.

Kate Bush - Aerial - a triumphant return. Aerial is quality, pure quality. Welcome back Kate, we missed you, and it’s wonderful to have you back.

Tracy Bonham - Blink The Brightest an album of staggering beauty and one of the best female singer-songwriter albums of the year. Move over Sarah McLachlan.

Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous from ragtime to rock and never short of uplifting, this album just gets better with every listening.

The Darkness - One Way Ticket To Hell ... - love them or hate them, this is the best rock album of 2005 by a mile.

Charlie Farrell

1. Green Carnation - The Quiet Offspring (Seasons of Mist)

I arrived rather late in the Green Carnation story as this is the band's 4th CD, however it completely bowled me over with its great mix of Prog-Metal technicality, melody and great songs infused with emotion. To say that I rushed out and bought up the rest of their catalogue would be an understatement. A fantastic band live, too, though their UK tour was criminally under-attended.

2. Tristania - Ashes (SPV)

This is a release which has had a mixed reaction from the band's fanbase, but I for one welcomed the switch away from the heavy use of Gothic Choral arrangements on which the band built its reputation to an aggressive mix of their old style and a more straight-forward Prog-Metal.

3. Scar Symmetry - Symmetry in Design (Metal Blade) Well Death Metal is hardly my usual 'cup of tea' but this album rocks from start to finish. The mix of harsh and clean vocals displayed here puts the vocalist up with the very best that the genre can offer while the guitars and the catchiness of the songs makes this an irresistable mix which has entertained me for many hours. Move over In Flames, Soilwork etc!

4. Arena - Peppers Ghost (Verglas) The last couple of Arena releases have been far more my kind of thing than their early releases. Pepper Ghost continues with the slightly heavier sound that they have adopted, the great solos from mssrs Nolan and Mitchell are a delight as usual and the lyrics and booklet also display the hard work that the band puts into each of its releases.

5. Crimson Tears - Gothica (Self-released) Wow! The mix of Female vocals with Gothic or Power metal has taken some time to have an influence on the UK scene, but here at last we have a combo capable of holding their own with the continental competition. Fans of Nightwish will probably love this. Look out for the full CD in late 2006!

Top DVDs

1. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - From the Beginning (Sanctuary) As a huge ELP fan who was just a bit too young to catch them at the height of their fame, this is a godsend. I would have preferred a full concert DVD, but aside from the 'Pictures at an Exhibition' DVD, this is the closest that we are going to get. Aside from a good portion of the show at the 'California Jam', there are excerpts from many other shows, promo videos and interviews with the band and their management.

2. Anathema - Were You There? (Music For Nations) Originally scheduled for 2004, this was finally released in early 2005. Featuring an in-studio 'live' performance before a Polish audience, this showcases the band's most recent albums, from Judgement onwards. There are not so many extras, but if you love the band, you'll love this DVD.

3. Various Artists - Beautiful Voices (Nuclear Blast) An excellent compilation (video and audio) of the very finest bands out there with female vocalists. If you haven't got further than dipping you toes into the world of Nightwish and WIthin Temptation, then this is an excellent introduction.

4. Pain of Salvation - Be (Inside Out) As an obsessive Pain of Salvation fan who could resist this package the contains the audio and video performance of 'Be', together with many extras guaranteed to provide many hours of amusement.

5. Progpower USA V - Behind The Scenes (Angry Woodchuck) An amusing and engageing trip behind the scenes of the USA's premier festival for Prog and Power Metal, with the excellent bonus of extracts from the performances of many of the bands who have appeared at the festival over the years.

Gigs

1. Turisas - The Underworld (20-Mar-05)

Jaw-droppingly awesome and amusing. A power-house debut performance in the UK from these Finns who totally conquored the meagre attendance and sent them home whistling their daft tunes. A performance that will become a legend!

2. Porcupine Tree - London Astoria (2-Apr-05)

A band that go from strength to strength and a performance that left me desperate to see the band again, as soon as possible.

3. Van der Graaf Generator (6-May-05)

The return of a legendary band and an awesome performance that more than met the expectations of its audience

4. Metal Female Voice Festival (22-Oct-05)

A stunning line-up featuring the cream of the Female-Vocal scene. Outstanding performances from Skeptical Minds, Epica and After Forever amongst others

5. Gotthard - The Garage (26-Jun-05)

A welcome return to the UK stage of this popular Swiss act and a powerful performance that even had me dancing (almost).

John Stefanis

Check out John's Top 10 here

1.Napalm Death - The Code is Red Long Live the Code While this planet is still being ruled by lies and deceit, you can always rely on Napalm Death to spit their venomous lyrics and point their fingers in the right direction. Extreme metal in its best form.

2.Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor This album is the answer to those who believed that Nevermore would never manage to release another album of the same quality and character to that of “Politics of Ecstasy”. A modern day masterpiece!

3.Shadow Gallery - Room V Progressive metal is much more than endless solos and constant manipulation of rhythm – it’s music with passion and soul, and if you don’t agree with that argument, then it is more than obvious that you haven’t yet listened to the amazing “Room V”

4.Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal does not only signify the return to action of one of the most important Death Metal bands ever, but the proof that sometimes it is the simple things in life that are on great value.

5.Candlemass - Candlemass When the bell of Doom starts ringing, and the slightly overweight monk begins the mass, all eyes and ears must turn to the north! A classic album from a legendary band.

Pete Feenstra

1). Arcade Fire - Funeral (Merge Records)

A slow burner but totally compelling; This is a completely unique band with an edgy almost sardonic style that draws on a wide range of influences ranging from Bowie's “Low” era, through an unlikely tip of the hat to everyone from REM, Talking Heads and Bjork, to Yoko Ono!

There is so much stylistic diversity here, so many ideas, so many biting lyrics and little musical parodies, that no-one could ever claim this essential album to be anyone's baby but the magnificent Arcade Fire.

2). Walter Trout Deep Trout (Provogue)

The passing of time was never better illustrated than on the last Walter Trout tour, when the powerhouse guitarist turned to his huge London audience and thanked them for the last 14 years. This release celebrates 15 years since Walter made his name in Europe in his own right.

For newer Euro Trout fans this album marks a timely pit stop in the ascendancy of one of the best blues rockers in the world. And while ‘Deep Trout’ cannot draw any tracks from Walter's one album deal that led to very underrated ‘Tellin Stories’, this collection (which mainly draws on the bulk of his "Provogue Years) sets out his stall.

Once a hired hand in the Bluesbreakers, Canned Heat and for John Lee Hooker, this compilation proves Walter’s solo pedigree as an emotive song writer, impassioned singer and fiery guitarist.

IAN PARKER

1) What are you doing musically at the moment?

During the last six months I have been very focused on the Blues Caravan project. Blues Caravan is basically a package tour organised by Ruf Records, in which three Ruf artists are put on the road together in a tour bus for six months around Europe.

In 2006 the artists will be Aynsley Lister, Erja Lyytinen, and myself. Thomas Ruf decided that the three of us should record an album together, which we did in Mississippi and Memphis back in September. It was great fun and we are all very pleased with the outcome.

This project has kept me really busy in recent weeks and months, and we have just recorded a live DVD of the show in Germany for Rockpalast.

2) What were your main personal achievement(s) in 2005?

It has been a great year musically and I am very proud of the way my band has progressed on stage and of the work Aynsley, Erja, and myself did in America. Getting to America and reconnecting myself to the root source of the Blues was an important thing for me to have done too, I feel that I have more clarity about my career than ever before right now.

On a personal note, I think that I have really begun to develop a more relaxed outlook towards life, and I find myself taking minor business conflicts less personally these days, which I hope is a sign of maturity and gained experience.

3) Any disappointments?

I have failed quite monumentally to strike a balance between my professional and personal life. I love my work and I am a workaholic, but my commitment and dedication to music, has certainly been to the detriment of other areas of my life this year.

4) What were your own favourite albums, films and/or books of 2005 and why?

Favourite albums - Coldplay 'X and Y', I hate to be involved in anything which could constitute a band-wagon, so I normally steer well clear of anything which meets with mass approval, but this year I have caught the Coldplay bug to some extent.

I have always liked the simplicity of Chris Martin’s writing style, and now that he has made his lyrical content more personal and therefore far more emotional, I’m hooked!

John Hiatt 'Master of Disaster', I really love this album. It was recorded at Ardent in Memphis, which is where we recorded some of the Blues Caravan tracks.

Anyone who is involved in Blues-related music has to be a fan of John Hiatt, I especially like the old school approach he took to this record, and as ever it is full of great songs.

Favourite films - (forgive me if my selections are not actually from 2005, I only ever get to watch films on DVD, so I’m never sure exactly how new they are!)

The Assassination of Richard Nixon. Sean Penn is fantastic in this film and I just love the concept of building a really tragic personal tale around the political backdrop of the period in question.

Birth. I love the way the film is shot, fantastic colours and there is a fantastically intense close-up shot of Nicole Kidman at the Opera/Theatre, which I liken to the emotional intensity created when a blues player hits one note and everyone is just floored. Kidman is superb, I have watched a lot of her films this year. It’s only recently occurred to me how hideously sexy she is too!

Favourite book - 'The Zahir' by Paulo Coelho. This book is unlike the other titles I have read by Coelho. The story is semi-autobiographical and leaves you wondering how much of it is true and how much is fiction. There are a lot of parallels with my own life in the book. He is something of a guru for me, as I consider myself to be very spiritual, but I have never really settled in any one place spiritually. Ever since I read The Alchemist a few years ago, I feel like I have had some framework to guide me in some way.

5) What are you planning musically in 2006?

As ever there is going to be a hell of a lot of touring to do. The Blues Caravan project will dominate most of the year in terms of touring and should introduce us all to some new European countries, which will be fantastic. There has even been some tentative talk of taking it to the States but we'll have to wait and see about that. At some point in 2006 I will be recording my next studio album too. I have plenty of ideas about the kind of record I want to make, the difficult part is going to be finding the time!

3). Aynsley Lister/Erja Lyytinen/Ian Parker - Pilgrimage (Ruf Records)

Apart from the occasional heavy accent from Finish vocalist Erja, this is a hugely successful project that somehow blends her contemporary take on the blues with Aynsley characteristic brusque approach, and Ian Parker’s gospel sensibilities.

The opening guitar frenzy is a prequel to much great playing that incorporates rocky blues, down- home acoustic blues (Mississippi style, where some of this album was recorded) and gospel.

For three artists who have skirted around the blues idiom with much apprehension, this is a welcome surprise and nearly as good as the classic Copland/Collins/Cray effort of over 20 years ago. The blues is alive with a welcome contemporary slant.

4). Topeka - Landrush - (Lopie Records)

Based on the West Coast, Topeka are all about the angular alt.Americana roots music of one Fletcher Harrington, the wonderful voice of Tanya Livingstone, and the multi instrumental talent of Brit Collins.

And if you can overcome the slightly nasal timbre of Harrington’s voice (often cleverly mixed into double vocal lines with Tanya), you will discover a wealth of impressionistic lyrics, musical textures and moods. Fletcher’s lyrics reflect a dark brooding psyche, the kind that was once explored by the likes of Loudon Wainwright, Neil Young on ‘On The Beach’, and might in contemporary times be almost best suited to a David Lynch style movie.

FLETCHER HARRINGTON (TOPEKA)

1) What are you doing musically at the moment?

I'm working on another solo record. I've finished about 20 basic tracks. All I need to do is finish the vocal tracks and some of the lead guitar stuff and I'll be done. Hopefully it'll be ready before next spring.

2) What were your main personal achievement(s) in 2005?

I had a great time during my last tour of England. I really love the country. We got to visit Manchester (where some of my favorite bands came from - The Smiths, Oasis, Joy Division) - and I've been able to write and complete another record

3) Any disappointments?

Not many....my bandmates have had some trying times this year (some of my band mates have had some personal, relationship problems which has affected their abilities to play with the band) but otherwise for me it's been a great year.

4) What were your own favourite albums, films and/or books of 2005 and why?

Hmmmm, I really liked the new Stereolab record. But I tend to like everything they do.

I finally got to see Paul McCartney in concert this year (I know he's been around FOREVER, but I've never seen a Beatle in concert and I am a closet Beatle nut....so it was cool). I don't like most films and I never get to read as much as I'd like so......

My favorite records this year have been (not all of them are new): Bob Dylan Don't Look Back the DVD, Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane Live at Carnegie Hall, The Shins, The White Stripes, The Clash London Calling re-issue, the Bruce Springsteen Born to Run box set.....

5) What are you planning musically in 2006?

Another tour. I'd love to go to Europe (the continent). One of our managers keeps trying to get us gigs in Australia...that would be cool...and we have some tentative dates planned for Northern California (San Francisco and Santa Cruz)

5). The Imperial Crowns - Preachin The Blues Live - Ruf Records

The album is what the band does live, and on the evidence of the Imperial Crowns London debut in the summer, they are simply one of the most exciting bands on the planet – a cross between Iggy Pop, Howlin World, Beefheart and the Red Devils! The Imperial Crown have finally made it to these shores and this as they say is their time!

The Imperial Crowns are all about the larger than life, low down sleazy southern California blues preaching of Jimmie Wood, who can take his place in the burgeoning field of Beefheart/Tom Waits meets Howlin Wolf. But what sets Jimmie aside from the pack is that his style of Preachin' The Blues is so full of magical imagery, complete with tales of sex, death, voodoo, Hollywood and beyond.
JIMMIE WOOD, IMPERIAL CROWNS

1) What are you doing musically at the moment?

At the moment I'm in a writing phase. I've been a little lazy lately, and now I'm feelin' pretty inspired to blow out a buncha new songs. JJ and I gotta come up with new material for the next Imperial Crowns record anyway, so I'm glad the spirit has hit me now.

2) What were your main personal achievement(s) in 2005?

I recognized the fact that I'm still growing as a human being. I'm more aware than I've ever been. Being a positive (for the most part) factor in my daughters Hannah and Rachels lives. Playing the best music that I've ever played with The Imperial Crowns.

3) Any disappointments?

I'm dissapointed in us (me included) as humans, and how capable we are of acting like beasts to each other. I'm always dissapointed in myself, 'cause I think I could do more in all areas of my life. But, I have problems in areas that I didn't used to have areas! Ya dig?

4) What were your own favourite albums, films and/or books of 2005 and why?

Albums : I dug The Black Keys record Rubber Factory. Dan Auerbach is a monster guitar playin, singin' songwritin' muthafucka!

Ry Cooder new one Chaves Ravine is fuckin' fantastic. I'm from LA, and this concept album nails a slice of my city from a bygone era with a twist. Best to listen while on a long drive late at night!

CC Adcock The Laffyette Marquis. Not just 'cause he recorded my song Loaded Gun! CC's a South Lousiana original. A great songwriter and a sick guitar strangler!

Too many more to mention. The Roots, Ian Siegel, Los Lobos, Missy Elliot, Jay Z, and a billion more!

Books: Walter Mosley's Cinnamon Kiss (and every thing else he wrote) is unbelievable.....or very believable. Again being an Angelino, this cat Mosley can paint a picture of LA that really put's you there! He can write mystery, SciFi, and straight up "Literature."

James Lee Burke's Crusaders Cross was absolutely incredible! He's probabaly the best descriptive author living today. He makes you see, feel and smell his locations. Both these authors shine a lotta light on our "dark" sides.

I'm in the middle of Bill Clintons autobiography right now! Damn! I miss him! When you consider the asshole we got now, make ya yearn for him.

Movies : Hustle n' Flow was so damn real. A great movie about a pimp struggling to get outta The Life and into the rap world in the real Memphis. Far from Beale Street and Graceland.

The Devils Rejects. I'm not a big fan of slash n crash flicks, but Rob Zombie's a stone genius in this genre. Not for the faint of heart!

The Constant Gardner and Syriana Two great political thrillers. Intelligent. Not bang bang shoot 'em ups.

5) What are you planning musically in 2006?

IMPERIAL CROWNS! IMPERIAL CROWNS!! IMPERIAL CROWNS!!! We're finally releasing Hymn Book in the US. Can't wait to work like hell in my own country! AND we wanna really hit the UK and try to make true believers outta ya!

Best Gigs

1). Dick Heckstall Smith: A Story Ended, Astoria, London

His was a poignant event that was a final send off for the late Coloseum/John Mayall sax player Dick Heckstall Smith. On a sold out and emotional night, the likes of Gray Moore, and Jack Bruce teamed up with drummer Gary Husband for an impomptu Cream set, while original Savoy Brown harp player John O'Leary and one time Stone Mick Taylor hit a memorable groove. Over 40 musicans paid their respect, played respective inspired sets, and unbelivably it all ran on time. Hiseman's Coloseum climaxed the show with Babara Thompson filling in for the absent Dick.

2). Walter Trout & The Radicals The Astor Theatre, Deal, Kent

Who would have thought that on a hot Monday night in late summer, Walter Trout & The Radicals could drag in a capacity crowd, bring them to fever pitch and then announce a special guest in the shape of former Family and Wildman of Rock, Roger Chapman.

Mic stands were duly demolished, Walter blazed away on guitar and Chappo pranced, gesticulated and gargled as only he can. Memorable!

3). Joe Bonamassa - Beards Blues, Tooting, London SW17

Joe's UK debut had its wobbly moments courtesey of a power surge, and cramped stage, but when he hit his stride he was everything we had read about and heard on his albums. Joe is truly the future of Rock/Blues

4). Ian Parker Band - Beards Blues, Tooting SW17

A musician of real presence, a guitarist in the young Peter Green mould, and a lyricist who can reduce a rowdy packed club to reverential silence -and he's only in his 20's. Never was the power of gospel and white boy blues passion so brilliantly ressurected.

Equal 5th

5). The Zombies - The Boom Boom Club, Sutton Utd FC, Surrey

Rolling back the years with great enthusiam, Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent trotted out thir classic back catalogue. And while Rod Argent is the major song writing talent, the focus of attention remaiins the magnificent voice of Colin Blunstone. The band threw in a couple of Argent classics like 'Hold Your Head Up', 'God Gave Rock & Roll To You', and inevitably the Zombies, 'She's Not There', and a superb new effort 'Sanctuary', and you quickly realised you were in the rpesence of one of the truly great bands of their era.

Equal 5th). Skinny Molly at Beards Blues , London SW17

Having lost former Molly Hatchet guitarist Dave Hlubek, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Mike Estes might have been forgiven for giving up on this project. However, on the evdience of this show he must have had a hunch about the young Florida guitarist Keith Wayne, whose searing solos and wonderfuul slide work teased out every Southern Rock nuance in 'Freebird', 'Mr Saturday Night Special' etc.

Gloriously retro right down to the double guitar lines, banks of amps and long hair, Skinny Molly celebrated a time when good old southern boys held sway..

Stuart Hamilton

Well, it's not been a vintage year by any means, with a dearth of exciting new bands and most of the old stagers content to revisit old glories, but there have been a few that have made it into the favourites pile...

The two best albums of the year (by a mile) are;

COLT - These Things Can't Hurt You Now, So Throw Them in the Fire

The artists formerly known as Living With Eating Disorders, never to be known as TAFKALWED, have been responsible for making some of the most chilling, affecting, despondent and uplifting music I have ever heard. Despite their distancing themselves from their controversial name, they're still ploughing the same lyrical, harrowing furrow that takes you from moments of almost divine beauty to the pits of despair, often within a heartbeat. There isn't a second wasted across the twelve tracks, each one opening up into a bewitching and enticing treat, especially with vocalist Andrea Kerr adding to her already remarkable arsenal of vocal techniques.

NEAL MORSE - ?

Musically this is classic rock in the vein of Kansas and their ilk, but taken to the nth degree. Whether it's the gospel ballad, "The Outsider" or the dramatic "Temple Of The Living God", the music here is outstanding. The latter and "In The Fire" also benefit from some incredibly vibrant guitars. The whole album is drenched with memorable melodies which will stick with you. Aided by Jordan Rudess, Steve Hackett, Alan Morse, Roine Stolt and Mike Portnoy, this is an outstanding release by someone not afraid to stand up and speak out for what he believes. Even if you don't want to hear the words, the music will uplift your spirit.

A few others that will stand the test of time:

EXODUS Shovel Headed Kill Machine

Who'd have thought this far down the line that Exodus had an album like this in them. There's no ballads, no lame cover versions, just 10 fast, brutal slabs of Exodus attack. I defy you to listen to “Deathamphetamine and not feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise, your biceps bulge and your fists clench.

TONY IOMMI / GLENN HUGHES - Fused

This is an incredibly good album and makes you wonder what could have been if Glenn Hughes had managed to hold it together all those years ago.

LEAVES EYES - Vinland Saga

Why oh why are there so many fantastic female fronted power goth metal acts wandering around mainland Europe drawing me into their webs of desire. For it is pure desire when it comes to music like this. My ears lust for it. Sometimes bleak, sometimes invigorating but always fascinating, this is an essential purchase for lovers of the genre.

Nearly made it -

MOLLY HATCHET - Warriors Of The Rainbow Bridge

SAN FRANCISCO BLUE - Hurting For People (even with my bias)

THE TREVOR FINLAY BAND - Show Me What U Got

TISHAMINGO - Wear n' Tear

JO McCAFFERTY – Live At The Moorings

Best live shows.

This was a year plagued with ill health, so my gigging was restricted but An Evening With LACUNA COIL was divine, TWISTED SISTER were awesome and MOTORHEAD were Motorhead!

At the time of writing I've still got ARCH ENEMY and CATHEDRAL gigs lined up and I suspect they'll be well up the list.

Best DVDs

I don't really like DVDs that much - too many backstage "shenanigans" to remind me how dull and uninteresting most musicians are away from their music, but 'Showtime' by UFO is a cracker. But the best DVD I saw this year was THE TEA PARTYS 'Illuminations'.

I know it came out years ago, but in the wake of their split I bought it and spilt tears at their godlike genius.

Bands for 2006

ANGTORIA should take the gothic metal world by storm and BLOWBACK are the new stoner princes while I await the new Monster Magnet record.

David Randall

It has been a good year for CDs and difficult to whittle a list down to a Top 5: amongst the newcomers Roe Sham Bo and Never the Bride deserve a mention.

2005 might be seen in terms of 'the year the riff returned' and a year that some old-timers staged a successful comeback.

1. KATE BUSH Aerial

Remarkable return to form, few performers could take up the reigns again, almost seamlessly, after a 12-year break. An album that repays repeated listens.

2. IOMMI - Fused

The Black Sabbath bespectacled one shows that there is still life in the old riff yet. Teamed with the vocal power of Glenn Hughes and great songs, this CD is a masterclass in modern riffery meshed with at times vicious metal flavours.

3. SIMPLE MINDS Black & White 050505

A return to form after the band went off the boil in the late-90s. The band may want to get back to basics and shed the stadium rock image but 'Black And White 050505'. retained the widescreen formula, succinctly delivered in just 41 minutes.

4. NICKELBACK - All The Right Reasons

Perhaps a controversial choice, I mean Nickelback border on being too commercial for some tastes. There can be no denying that 'All the Right Reasons' was another 2005 return to form. A great collection of ballads and piledriving rockers with the guitar superbly recorded so that it jettisons out of your bass cones.

5. LEGS DIAMOND - Diamonds Are Forever

'Legs' have got a good enough pedigree, stretching back to the mid-70s. 'Diamonds Are Forever' is unashamedly retro but a high quotient of good songs and musicianship makes this offering pretty damn irresistible.

Best DVD

RUSH R30

In terms of presentation, concert and extras, this 30th Anniversary concert does the business. That it exceeds the band's 'Rio' DVD is never in doubt. Too bad Rush fans will be hard pressed for cash this Christmas.

Best Gig

SIMPLE MINDS London September 2005

This showcase gig for Capital Radio was a rare opportunity to get up close and personal. Just a day after the release of their 'comeback' album, the band played highlights plus a surprisingly extended selection of hardy favourites. Strong quotient of 'ladies of a certain age' in audience.

Best Re-issue

CELTUS - Moonchild

This was the band's debut album and - with bonus tracks and remastering - sounds better than ever. An essential souvenir of one of the much-missed Celtic rock fusion bands of the last decade.

Best Newcomer

ROE SHAM BO - Serotonin

A very confident debut, showing a surprising maturity of years, songs and musicianship.

Ian Pollard

Top albums:

1. Mostly Autumn - Storms Over Still Water. Still looking for the "magical" breakthrough, but with a steadily growing fanbase thanks to doing it the old fashioned way (i.e. quality releases and lots of touring). If any band deserves success, then it's MA. This years release sees them really pushing the boundaries of their music, covering various styles and even genres in the space of 55 minutes. Hard for me to say if it's better than their previous releases as all are top notch, but it is far and away the best release of the year.

2. Thunder - The Magnificent Seventh. Stronger than ever since their reformation, the latest offering continues where "Shooting at the Sun" left off with riff laden rock a-plenty, and the most annoyingly persistent 'lodge in your head for the rest of the day' song of the year in "I Love You More Than Rock 'n' Roll".

3. Audiovision - The Calling. One of many Christian Rivel (Narnia) side projects in which he has assembled a good cast of guest musicians (Jeff Scott Soto, Tony Franklin, Bruce Kulick etc etc) and come up with an awesome collection of songs that just plain rock! Includes a very well done cover of The Sweet's "Love Is Like Oxygen", but the rest is all original and no fillers.

4. Kamelot - The Black Halo. Totally underrated band IMO, and the latest album is packed with great progressive power metal. Khan's vocals seem to get stronger with each outing and Thomas Youngblood is now leaning towards better crafted solos as opposed to sheer speed. Well worth checking out if you've not heard them before.

5. Royal Hunt - Paper Blood. First release since the departure of Jacob Kjaer and Steen Mogensen, and I'm glad to say a very impressive one. The newcomers to the band fit in seamlessly, Andre's song writing is as good as ever and John West delivers huge vocals - just don't have any expensive crystal in the vicinity if playing this at volume!

OK, so the rest is going to be a little one-sided I'm afraid.

Re-Releases:

Magnum - On A Storyteller's Night 20th Anniversary edition. The original album on disc one, a bunch of (sometimes unusual) demo versions of some of the tracks on disc two. Gives a really good insight into the development of a song from Tony Clarkin's original idea to how it sounds on the final release.

Magnum - Kingdom Of Madness. The pick of the bunch in the recent batch of 5 Magnum re-releases - mainly for the inclusion on CD for the first time ever of their inaugral single, a cover of "Sweets For My Sweet", and the b-side "Movin' On" which Tony claims is the first song he ever wrote.

DVD:

Magnum - Livin' The Dream. Finally, an up to date vision of Magnum is now available. Recorded at the Astoria in April on the OASN 20th anniversary tour it features the entire album in order as one half of the set, and a potted history as the other half. Interestingly, not a single track from the bands most commercially successful era (Wings Of Heaven) makes it into the set - perhaps a deliberate decision due to the plethora of available video / DVD releases featuring that material? Superb double DVD packed with extras though, including the commercial era Polydor promo videos - some of which are totally cringe-worthy in true rock band style.

Gig:

Too many to go into detail, but top of the shop (yes, you guessed it):

Magnum - Astoria 23 April. Where the aforementioned DVD was recorded.

Other's worth a mention as top shows in no particular order:

Sammy Hagar at Sweden Rock Festival

Within Tempation at Sweden Rock Festival

Magnum at Sweden Rock Festival

Dio at Sweden Rock Festival

Dio on the "Holy Diver" tour

Thunder at Rock and Blues Festival

Australian Pink Floyd at Rock and Blues Festival

Queen & Paul Rodgers at Sheffield & Manchester

Mostly Autumn at the rearranged Blakey Ridge festival (the first one got completely washed out)

Judas Priest at Sheffield

Nikk Gunns

BON JOVI - Have A Nice Day - does what it says on the tin!!

Rolling Stones A Bigger Bang some great tracks here (and some dubious ones!!!)

JIZZY PEARL - Vegas Must Die my favourite CD of the year- highly recommended

BILLY IDOL Devil's Playground great comeback effort

Gigs

Europe Astoria- great gig, all the songs I wanted to hear (older album tracks included)- great night

Motley Crue Wembley- a gig I never thought would happen, again an outstanding gig.

Hurricane Party Underworld- OK, this was last Xmas but they really are a top band, very underrated.

DVD

Duran Duran Live in London reminds me of my youth!! Also a great gig. Europe Live From the Dark (Import)- Recorded at 2004's Hammersmith Odeon gig

Graham Boyle

MOONSORROW - Verifakeet

Epic, progressive, massive sounding viking metal sung in Finnish. A rawer album, still with massive blasts of orchestral beats and huge choirs, nobody does it better than this.

ALLEN/LANDE - The Battle

Two of metal biggest and best voices join battle to deliver the best melodic metal I've heard in an eternity. Full of great songs, catchy melodies and some strong songwriting.

REVERND BIZARRE - II:Crush The Insects

Who says doom metal is dead? RB from Finland manage to make doom sound catchy and even contains a hit single.

PAIN - Dancing With The Dead

Hypocisy's Peter Tagtgren 'side project' that is better than his aformentioned main band. More commercial, full of catchy songs and some clean singing from Mr.Tagtgren.

OPETH - Ghost Reveries

Opeth once again deliver a killer album, the again transgresses the boundaries between death metal and progressive rock.

Top DVD's

IN FLAMES - Live and Abused - In Live We Trust

The long awaited live DVD from the band everyone loves to hate. Two full live shows and a load of extra's, adds up to an essential metalheads purchase.

MAGNUM - Livin' The Dream

Magnum return with a live set from this years 20th anniversary of their classic live album, On A Storytellers Night'. Proving age makes no difference when it comes to playing great music, lots of extras too.

DREAM THEATER - When Dream and Day Reunite

15th anniversary of their classic debut album live, with special guests, original singer, Charlie Dominici and former keyboardist, Derek Sherinian.

Live Show

NIGHTWISH - Hartwall Areena, Helsinki October 21

What turned out to be Tarja's last show, what an unforgettable finale.

Last show of the tour the band were on top form, showing no tiredness. Packed with pyro, killer light show and their best songs. Recorded for DVD, it will be one of my most looked forward to next June.

Phil Berisford

[1] System of a Down - Mezmerize

[2] Within Temptation - The Silent Force

[3] Three Doors Down - Seventeen Days

[4] Demon - Better The Devil You Know

[5] Shadow Gallery - V

Best Re-issue

[1] Micki Free - Gypsy Cowboy

Best "Best of" of 2005

[1] Nightwish - Highest Hopes

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