Continuing with our annual end of year awards, this time it’s the turn of Rachael Griffiths, our Assistant Live Editor and one of our team of photographers. Here’s her thoughts on 2016.
Album Of The Year: LetLive – If I’m The Devil
Perhaps an unsurprising one to start with, given my bias towards LetLive. A long time fan of the band, 2016’s If I’m The Devil saw Letlive release some of their most political and heartfelt material to date. Departing slightly from their previous, heavier style to create a more rounded album also gives Jason Aalon Butler a chance to truly show off his versatility as a vocalist.
Ranging from the soft and soulful to shouts of anger, this is is a band showing how unashamed they are to create the music that best represents them at the moment. A point firmly stated with the title of the first track “I Learned to Love Myself”.
The record itself reveals a range of themes from self-acceptance, to anger, to love and quiet contemplation. It reminds us of how simple, catchy choruses and simple riffs do nothing to detract from the size of a song, or its message.
Quite simply, I will never cease to be astonished by this band.
Panic At The Disco – Death of a Batchelor
Beartooth – Aggressive
Blaqk Audio – Material
Zoax – Zoax
Song Of The Year: LetLive – Good Mourning America
Political and hard-hitting, this was the song that when released split opinions. Our first introduction to the world of “If I’m The Devil”, LetLive reminded us instantly of their political nature and their desire to shout about it. “Now that everybody is listening, will you shout? Or shut your mouth again?” rings out in the chorus, an accusation to a world that sits in silence at a time when it should be taking action.
But more than this, Good Mourning America is a punchy reminder not only of LetLive’s ability to be relevant, but also of their talent and ability to create catchy songs that stick with you long after listening.
This is a song to be shouted and screamed, a reminder that we should not go quietly and to stand up for what we believe. Something that in current times seems so incredibly important.
Mother Feather – Natural Disaster
Zoax – Alive in Sound
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Snake Eyes
Festival Performance Of The Year: Destiny Potato – UK Tech-Metal Fest
A quirky one that perhaps many of our readers will not be familiar with. Destiny Potato, apart from begin a band with a quite frankly amazing name, also boast to be in possession one of the most beautiful voices that I have ever experienced. The band, from Belgrade, have suffered with bad luck that almost borders on being cursed, time and again having to cancel UK performances due to Visa issues.
The tech scene held on to the hope that they would make last year’s festival and were rewarded with not only their appearance, but also to the “Road to Tech-Fest” Tour that was organised on the run up. Aleksandra Djelmas live sounds every bit like she does on record, and the band were met with a roaring reception that matched only that reserved for the headliners.
Destiny Potato, quite simply, know how to command a stage, and the hope remains that I will see far more of this band in the future.
Animals as Leaders, UK Tech-Metal Fest
Northlane, Slam Dunk
Every Time I Die, Slam Dunk
Gig Of The Year: LetLive – Tufnell Park Dome
Oh look, the usual suspects again. To be fair, everybody wants the opportunity to see their favourite acts in a venue that is slightly too small for them, and the short run of LetLive shows in London was a perfect opportunity to get up close to personal with a band very close to my heart (and indeed to point my camera at them).
As good as LetLive are on record, nothing can possibly match the energy that flows from them in a life environment. Jason Aalon Butler is one of, if not the best, vocalist on the live circuit today and has proven that the size of the venue does little to diminish his abilities. This show in particular however, was a masterclass in both stage presence and crowd connection from a man that is always genuinely thankful for the attention that he receives, for every last fan singing his lyrics back at him.
With no barrier and expensive camera equipment, I am generally very nervous at these types of shows, but the sheer anticipation and excitement of seeing LetLive overrode every nervous feeling I may have had. When Good Mourning, America kicked in, I forgot to even take any photos, I was kicked in the head and had my arms stood on more than once where I was leaning on the stage to steady my shots. In shot, I hurt, a lot.
Oh, I was also dying of the lurgy. It didn’t matter. That show filled me with such passion that I simply forgot everything that existed outside of the band playing in front of me.
Hands Like Houses – Boston Music Rooms
The Monolith All Dayer, Dingwalls
Most Disappointing Album Of The Year: Korn – The Serenity of Suffering
Perhaps this particular award is a little bit mean. There is nothing intrinsically “wrong” with Korn’s latest offering, but the rose tinted glasses of my teenage years have moulded Korn’s back catalogue into a selection of utter masterpieces in my head that they have become hard to complete with.
The Serenity of Suffering is very much a Korn album, with all the traditional styling that you would come to expect from a band with their own well-established sound. There is just something about it that meant the album just didn’t live up to the hype.
Music Video Of The Year: Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes – Snake Eyes
Everything about the Snake Eyes video seems simple. Big screen with a projection of Frank singing the song, yep obvious. Woman in the foreground dancing along, yep that’s obvious too.
The thing about Frank Carter is that he goes out of his way to make you see that your perceptions are wrong, and not in a gentle comforting way either, but in a business-like manner that sort of shouts at you, telling you that stop believing the things that you see before you that seem so obvious, that you should question your surroundings and what you are shown, to see if they contain some kind of deeper meaning or message.
More about Frank later in this article …
Band Of The Year: Architects
Many bands potentially could have achieved things this year that would put them in the running for this kind of award, but I can think of nothing more fitting than recognising that Architects have gone through great personal trauma with the loss of founding member, Tom Searle, to cancer in August of last year.
It was his twin brother, Dan, who broke the news. In his words:
“He was an incredible songwriter and guitarist. He was my closest and oldest friend. He was a funny, intelligent and sweet man and he leaves an enormous void in all of our lives.”
The scene was devastated, the fans rallied and incredible amounts of money were raised to help people like Tom. Amongst all this Architects dealt with the loss of their brother with a grace and composure that was, quite simple, awe-inspiring. Even now, their continued conduct speaks volumes of both the wonderful people that continue, and the man that they lost.
All Our Gods Have Abandoned us takes on new meaning once you listen to it with the knowledge of the fight that Tom was facing. Architects are a phenomenal band, but now with material far more poignant than before.
Hero Of The Year – Frank Carter
Frank Carter is a man with strong opinions about women. Now, there are of course many men with strong opinions about women, but Frank Carter makes speeches about the culture of sexual assaults against women at gigs. He speaks out because he wants his daughter to be able to go to gigs and feel safe, safe to stage dive and not worry that she will be groped by strangers, or belittled, or treated as less simply because of the fact she is female.
And this is hugely important.
I’ve seen a friend tweet shortly after attending one of Frank Carter’s shows that she left feeling empowered by such a speech, only to find herself harassed by a stranger on the train home, simply because she is female.
I’ve seen friends comment on everyday sexism, being told they are less, know less. I’ve seen men tell my friends that surely they are overreacting. I’ve seen friends told that what they wear must be the reason they have a AAA pass to a show that they are covering, because despite the fact they are excellent photographers, clearly talent has nothing to do with it. All because they are female.
Frank Carter, along with the many others that make their opinion known in this regard, make music a better world to be involved in. They help elevate our voice. In my eyes, that makes them true gentlemen.
And therein lies the end of Rachael’s end of year awards. As Rachael has been so slow in letting us have her choices, there are plenty of other awards from other contributors for you to cast your eyes over.