And what is great music without the events to compliment them? I have been to numerous gigs, shows and festivals this year, many of them being incredibly noteworthy. It’s been tough whittling it down to my 10 favourites, but here they are…
10. The End of Wrapped In Plastic – The Flapper, Birmingham, UK (28th June)
My countdown starts with an ending. Earlier in 2019, Wrapped In Plastic made the sad, shocking announcement that they would be disbanding later on in the year, and as of now are no more. Of course, before the final curtain, they took to the stage one last time, and it sure was a night to remember! St. Lucifer and Dead Happy felt like inspired choices for support. The former’s sleazy, dark style helped to set the tone, whilst the latter introduced some zany mayhem into the mix. Then it was time for the main act, and they really went for it, this final performance definitely being their very best. Mr. Hate’s vocal delivery, presence and demeanour were on point, and Squeaky’s guitar work was awe-inspiring, at times she shredded out absolutely blistering riffs. A solo section in particular was mind-blowing. Their sound and the atmosphere they generated created a violent energy, and there were moments where the audience genuinely went into a frenzy. Yours truly is not a fan of moshpits, but even I partook in this ritual! The destruction only increased, and the theatrics were as twisted as ever, as Mr. Hate took a baseball bat to mannequins and dolls strewn around the stage, inviting audience members to also join in on the chaos. This came to it’s inevitable conclusion as the crowd were invited to invade the stage during the final songs of “Stomp!” and a cover of Sex Pistol’s “God Save The Queen”. Needless to say, the stage became rammed with revellers and we all went absolutely wild. I honestly could not think of a better way to do a send-off for them, because this was something else. RIP WIP, and thanks for the hate!
9. Oxzide – Claptrap The Venue, Stourbridge, UK (1st March)
I’m always up for a good reunion! For those of you unbeknownst of them, Oxzide were big local heroes of the rock scene in the West Midlands. In their (far too short) seven year run, they recorded a couple of albums and embarked on various tours, very much making a name for themselves. Sadly, it all ended in 2013 when other commitments got in the way, and decided to call it a day. As this was their first show in about six years (in aid of Cancer Research), I jumped at the chance to see them. The Mighty Wraith were a great support, laying down a barrage of metal tracks, whilst projecting a lively, fun attitude, being a superb way to get the energy in the room flowing. As for Oxzide themselves, they pretty much blew the roof off the venue! It was if they’d never stopped, and if someone were to tell me they’d performed a week prior, I’d have honestly believed them. The show(wo)manship that was on display was flawless, the band never faltering from this level throughout the course of the evening. It was all truly top-notch stuff. The song selection was on-point, and the generously long set meant that they didn’t miss any of their greatest songs, saving the mighty “I Am Rock and Roll” for their encore, the song in itself the anthem of all rock music. It could have ended there, but the audience were so enthralled that they demanded more, and more is what we got! There were two big things to take away from this showing. Firstly, that Oxzide definitely still have what it takes, their skills and talents showing no bounds. Secondly, it’s clear that they’re still heroes of the West Midlands rock scene, especially if the overwhelmingly positive response is anything to go by. It wasn’t just a night of nostalgia, it was reliving a moment. I only hope that we see them take to the stage again in the future.
8. Beat:Cancer Festival 2.0 – Electrowerkz, London, UK (9th November)
This event may have suffered a two hour delay on the night itself, but that didn’t stop the party from getting extremely lively. The Beat:Cancer crew have always been able to conjure up excellent lineups, and this year’s event didn’t deviate from that. Every single act was fantastic, and each one bought something different to the table. Drakenwerks opened the evening with a bang, their Industrial style sounding like a mashup of Skinny Puppy and Funker Vogt, whilst having a ton of fun. Meanwhile, Vain Machine showed true showmanship, their synthpop sound keeping the energy in the room going, and Bein-E contrasted this by generating a twisted, moody ambience. Promenade Cinema were stunning, as cinedramatic darkwave resonated throughout the venue, becoming utterly mesmerising. CygnosiC delivered pounding, hard electro beats, turning the night into a rave and Nature of Wires nailed their set, the catchy tones of the music making folks stay on their toes. The crowd went into a frenzy for C-Lekktor too, which really got the adrenaline pumping. Finally, headliners iVardensphere absolutely dominated, the sounds of tribal industrial transporting the audience to another world, the properties of the music becoming hypnotising. The Beat:Cancer team pulled of yet another stellar event, and the fact that it was all for such a good cause makes things even greater. Its kind of bittersweet too, as they’re now taking a hiatus, with no events planned for next year and no signals as to when they’ll return. However, they have worked extremely hard for so long, and more than deserve a proper rest. If anything, this was the perfect send-off for them, and we’ll be left feeling the glorious effects of this event for some time.
7. Disturbed – Alexandra Palace, London, UK (11th May)
Well, this one was a hell of a long time coming! Prior to this recent tour, Disturbed had not embarked on a UK run since December 2010. So needless to say, it was great to have them back. I’d not been to Alexandra Palace before, and I found it a stunning choice of venue for the show, it’s sheer size feeling like a mini-festival. The fact that tickets had completely sold out for this is truly a testament to how far the band have come. First off, Skindred were support, who kicked everything into high gear. The heavy, lively mood that their music generates makes it easy to see why their such crowd-pleasers, their set keeping spirits raised high. I genuinely feel that they’ll be hitting arenas very soon. As for Disturbed themselves, they dominated. Aptly opening with “Are You Ready”, what proceeded was a two hour performance of absolute belters, covering all the major bases of their career to date. I would have perhaps liked to have heard more than four tracks off their most recent record Evolution, but that didn’t stop things getting epic. Besides, when you’re presented with classics like “Stupify”, “Ten Thousand Fists” and “The Game”, no one is really going to argue with the song choices. It was a brilliant selection, backed by superb visual effects, which complimented the band’s mighty presence. This performance was enough to prove that Disturbed are at the very top of their game, having all the hallmarks of a festival headliner. They feel unstoppable!
6. Infest Festival – University of Bradford, UK (23rd-25th August)
It almost feels unfair to add Infest to this list. The ‘goth summer camp’ never fails to impress, and is always an absolute blast. However, there was an issue with this year’s festival that I failed to mention in my review, that was a more personal one. Long story short, I ended up falling a bit ill, meaning I had to take it a lot easier than I usually would. Regardless of this, I still had a brilliant time (completely sober too), mainly thanks to some incredible friends who looked after me. As I’ve said previously, I feel that Infest is about the people more than anything else, and the 2019 instalment kept up this tradition. Once again there were plenty of occasions where there was wild partying, as well as memories that I shan’t forget. The in-jokes were on-point too! As for the bands, there were a host of great acts. Bitman totally set the scene on the Friday evening, Rave The Requivem put on a blistering set, Zardonic’s DJ spot was brilliantly chaotic, and DED.PXL were massive. I made a couple of superb discoveries too, in the form of Witch of The Vale and Future Lied To Us. The former was beautifully and hauntingly enchanting, whilst the latter delivered some catchy, sweeping synthpop melodies. It was incredibly fulfilling to finally see She Wants Revenge (which I’d waited over a decade for), and they completely lived up to my expectations. Nitzer Ebb were a superb headliner too, the Industrial EBM pioneers showing their prowess and skill to it’s fullest. The DJ duo of Karkasaurus was the appropriate way to close the weekend on, and I feel it’s the ideal metaphor for the festival itself. They threw down some hard-hitting tunes, mixes and mashups, at times reaching zany levels of quirkiness, accompanied by dancers in dinosaur costumes. It was all silly fun, with some of the best people, which is exactly what Infest is all about!
5. M’era Luna Festival – Hildesheim, Germany (10-11th August)
Despite the lengthy, and sometimes gruelling, 20 hour coach journey to reach the festival site, then longer on the return journey, this was still totally worth the effort. Even though the weather predictions were doom and gloom, we ended up with a weekend of mostly blazing sunshine, perhaps a bit much so (as my poor burnt forehead proved.) But enough of weather forecasts and traffic reports, what was the festival itself like? In all fairness, it was pretty damn epic! I have no idea how the festival organisers do it, but each year things just keep getting better and better, with them particularly outdoing themselves this time round! There were a bunch of great acts, my personal highlights being Empathy Test, Deathstars, Agonoize, Die Krupps, Heldmaschine, Funker Vogt and VNV Nation. However, without a shadow of a doubt, the band of the weekend had to be Within Temptation, who’s set blew me away. They powered through their hit songs, as well as tracks off their newest record, the excellent Resist. It was electrifying from start to finish, and worth the entry price alone. Of course, it was great to meet up with so many wonderful friends yet again (even though some were sadly absent) and get to hang out in such a relaxed environment. In fact, I actually did a lot less partying after the bands this year, opting to hang out at the campsite for some social banter. Naturally, this was broken on the final night, when a few of us decided to hit the awesomeness of the medieval village until stupid hours of the morning drinking booze. I perhaps wasn’t exactly in the best condition when leaving, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Once again, kudos to the Goths on a Bus crew for organising the entire trip, you guys are legends!
4. Amphi Festival + Call The Ship To Port pre-party – Cologne, Germany (19th-21st July)
I have to admit, the Call The Ship To Port pre-party was probably one of the best things about this year’s Amphi. It got things off to a roaring start, with a trio of incredible acts – those being Diorama, Solar Fake and Mesh. The latter easily put on the best performance I’ve ever seen them do, and the setlist was killer. Even from the back of the boat, the feeling was intense. As for the main festival itself, it was as brilliant as ever, the beautiful, iconic venue of the Tanzbrunnen once again seeing a congregation of 12,500 goths gather for two days of superb acts. Chrom, Hocico and Solitary Experiments were all absolutely fantastic, whilst the discoveries of Ost+Front, Jäger 90 and Cryo were just as brilliant. If there was one moment I could ever wish to somehow bottle, it would be Project Pitchfork’s set. Having seen them on plenty of occasions, I knew to expect a pretty decent showing, yet they somehow exceeded my expectations. To put it simply, it was gripping! In one particular moment, whilst dancing to their hard-hitting tunes, there was a beautiful sunset over on the horizon. The atmospheric lighting, in combination with the musical prowess on display made this utterly euphoric, capturing the pure essence of the summer festival vibe. It’s an occasion that is difficult to describe, and is the main reason as to why this made the fourth spot on this list. I can honestly say, with complete confidence, that this was my favourite Amphi Festival yet.
3. Lacuna Coil – O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London, UK (16th November)
Right off the back of their stunning latest album Black Anima, Lacuna Coil hit the road on a slew of tour dates in North America, with Europe following not far behind. After such an incredible record, I was expecting great things from this, and it was still better than I expected it to be! The Italian gothic metallers owned the stage, delivering a set of epic proportions, blasting through tracks old and new. They were charismatic as ever too, the audience glued to every note and command. It was a brilliant show, with a few nice surprises, all performed to absolute perfection. What made this night even greater were the duo of acts that played before the main event; Infected Rain and Eluveitie. Infected Rain were absolutely brutal, being an utter powerhouse, injecting the room with an adrenaline that more than set the scene for the rest of the night. Meanwhile, Eluveitie bought the spectacle, as heavy metal and traditional folk music moulded together to create something truly unique and awe-inspiring. Granted, this style has been done many times before, but not quite like this. Shockingly, it was the first time I’d actually heard these two bands, and I can safely say that they both gained a new fan right here. It’s one of those rare occasions where all the acts were so fantastic, that I’m still unsure as to who was my favourite. In the end though, they are all winners, and so are us that got to attend it, for it was one hell of a night!
2. Wave-Gotik-Treffen – Leipzig, Germany (7th-10th June)
If I’m being a bit honest, WGT wasn’t quite the most fun I had this year (although I still had tons of it), but the fact that it was such a huge adventure made it stand out for me. For years I had friends urging me to attend this festival, and I finally decided that 2019 would be the first time I took this leap. I can see why they spoke so highly of it too. Imagine, if you will, an entire city taken over by all walks of the Gothic culture, with a vast selection of venues housing different acts (reaching a dizzying total of hundreds to choose from), tons of attractions, events, and so much more. It’s quite literally a Goth playground, and it’s four days of non-stop partying! I honestly lost count of the number of venues I ended up in, as well as the hours ticking by, leading to some epic after-partying. This of course meant that I got back to my hotel at ridiculous hours of the morning, but it was so worth it. I’d be lying if I said the concept of the whole thing sounded overwhelming before attended, to the point where I even wondered if it was possible to achieve. However, I can say with confidence, that it’s actually pretty straightforward, as long as some planning goes into it. Getting around was easy, with public transport being free to festival attendees, and locales were easy enough to find, even if there were a few long treks involved. Ultimately, I’m kinda proud I managed it! What I love about all of the festivals I attend, is the fact that each one brings something unique to the table, and WGT is no exception. There’s honestly nothing quite like this in the world, and in many ways is pretty life changing. It’s sure to be on my rota for years to come!
1. Rammstein – MK Stadium, Milton Keynes, UK (6th July)
Prior to Rammstein’s most recent tour, I was initially worried because it was a stadium show. As live performances of this scale heavily echo the atmosphere of festivals, and Considering I’d seen them at festivals on a few occasions in the past, with lacklustre results, I was genuinely concerned that it would be a let-down. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was it absolutely mind-blowing, but it was also the best Rammstein performance I’ve ever seen. In fact, it was genuinely the greatest live show I’d ever been to! Sonically, they were on-point, not missing a note or beat, and even in such a grandiose venue, managed to maintain an electrifying presence. The massive stage, looking like a huge industrial spaceship had landed in MK Stadium, was just as magnificent. The monolithic structure housed a stunning light show, whilst also being the perfect setup for stunts, theatrics and tons of pyro that were out of this world. “Sonne” particularly stood out for me, as massive towers burst with flame, the conflagration feeling powerful enough to burn down the entirety of Milton Keynes. This is why Rammstein shows haven’t had as much of an impact at festivals; it’s because they run their own show. Without the limitations, regulations and strict guidelines being imposed by an outside party, it’s meant that they’ve been able to work to a level that suits them. Needless to say, it’s a level that blows any other live act completely out of the water by a country mile. When a band has become so big that they’ve outgrown even festivals, it’s really saying something, and Rammstein have done just that.