A Year in Heavy Metal

Christmas has been lovely; calm and sleepy, full of so much food I’ve had to do a really attractive waddle just to get down the stairs of the flat today. I am now waiting for my shift to start at work – the Trafford Centre is heaving with throngs of Boxing Day shoppers and their uniform expressions of greed are making me feel sick. So I’m going to enjoy this last hour of freedom by reminiscing about all the fabulous gigs I’ve been to in 2015.


When & Where: March 14th, Manchester Apollo

It was the first time I’ve seen this band live, and I’ve only really been listening to them since about January 2015.

Highlight: Arejay Hale and his absolute animal drumming; Lzzy Hale’s one woman performance of Hate It When You See Me Cry. It was fabulous hearing the new songs performed live only a matter of days after I’d heard them for the very first time.

Lowlight: A couple of questionable support acts and a crowd that wasn’t really as into the gig as they should have been. The show would probably have actually worked better in a smaller venue.


When & Where: March 20th, Manchester Academy 3

Another band I was seeing for the very first time, though I have loved them for a good couple of years now.

Highlight: Finally hearing Amaranthine performed live, aka the first dance at my wedding; getting a little bit weepy when the band brought a small child up on stage for her favourite song. Elize Ryd hit every single note and did some bloody impressive high kicks into the bargain.

Lowlight: There’s a reason Academy 3 is known as the sweatbox. Getting dripped on by the ceiling wasn’t so nice.

Sonata Arctica

When & Where: May 1st, London Islington Academy

I’ve seen this lot… once or twice. Or three. Or four. Or maybe a little more.* This was their only UK gig in a few years, though, so I was expecting good things.

Highlight: Finally, finally, finally seeing X Marks the Spot live, one of the most batshit insane songs to have been released in the last ten years; after the show, managing to shame guitarist Elias Viljanen into removing his double man bun. Also ran into the lovely Freddie Thunder of Neonfly and had a bit of a chat. For the first time all year, I fell a bit in love with a support band; Twilight Force are hilarious and adorable in equal measure and I would genuinely go and see them again.

Lowlight: The friend I was with feeling ill and leaving the front of the gig – when I found her, we discovered that there was no way to see any of the rest of the show from the balcony other than on a grainy screen, and it was impossible to get back through the crowd.


When & Where: October 24th, Manchester Academy 2

I’ve been trying to see this band live for literally years and years. Every time I get thwarted – in Paris, the gig was cancelled because the lead singer of the band they were touring with (coincidentally, Sonata Arctica) had the flu, when they were in London and Manchester I was too broke, and then when they were back in Manchester they sold out the day before I got paid. This year, one of my friends was getting married on the day Delain was in Manchester. But then all the drama with moving house happened and I could no longer afford the £300+ it would cost me and my husband to get to the wedding, so I swooped in and snapped up a ticket for Delain to make me feel better.

Highlight: Get The Devil Out Of Me and The Gathering – two absolutely fabulous songs; realising that one of the guitarists is basically a tubbier Eomer from Lord of the Rings; nearly whomping Anneke Van Giersbergen (the support act, I’m not a fan) in the head when I was in the lobby after the gig.

Lowlight: Having a sudden rush of nausea and having to rush out to puke in between the support bands and the actual show, losing a pretty good place in the crowd (these things happen; see Sonata Arctica).


When & Where: November 21st, Manchester Academy 2

I saw this lot back in 2009, supporting Nightwish at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. I hadn’t expected to be bothered by them, but as soon as they came out on stage I was captivated. I’ve listened to them a lot since then but this was the first time I was seeing them live in six years.

Highlight: Perttu taking his shirt off; Hall of the Mountain King; Sin In Justice with the surprisingly OK support band Vamps (I’ve had this song in my head for four weeks solid); Perttu taking his shirt off; my friend Hannah’s first ever heavy metal experience. We were brazen enough to shove our way to about three rows from the front despite only turning up forty five minutes after the doors opened. Perttu took his shirt off. It was somewhat fabulous to be able to switch from headbanging to heavy metal cellos to drinking cocktails in a gay club and dancing to Cher within literally twenty minutes.

Lowlight: The gig actually ending. This would have been my ultimate best gig of 2015, had the 19th December one not happened.


When & Where: December 19th, London Wembley Arena

I’ve got a special relationship with Nightwish. Their songs got me through the hardest few years of my life; they provided the path onto metal for me, without which I probably wouldn’t have met my husband, and I definitely wouldn’t have had most of the crazy adventures that have come to define my life. I’ve seen them rather a lot, but this was my first time seeing them in almost exactly three years.

Highlight: I should just write a full blog post on this; I would if I had taken more photos. To throw in a few moments of awesome: Floor Jansen being an Amazonian goddess, particularly during the most powerful part of Ghost Love Score; hearing The Poet and the Pendulum (the song that helped keep me alive when I was nineteen) for the first time with Floor; the performance of Seven Days to the Wolves (the first Nightwish song I ever saw live); adorable Troy Donockley’s emotional Hello Wembley moment; Troy’s awkward semi-headbanging with his mandolin during Weak Fantasy. Despite only rocking up after ice-skating and cocktails, as the doors were opening, my husband and I managed to find ourselves about ten rows from the front, centrally positioned, in the perfect place to see Professor Richard Dawkins when he tottered out at the end to recite the closing speech from The Greatest Show On Earth.

Lowlight: The small man from Brazil who seemed intent on filming every single song during the support acts (I did manage to elbow him out of the way before Nightwish started – I didn’t want to watch the whole show through his shaky, non-HD three inch screen); the ill-feeling girl who decided to repeatedly sit down in the middle of the pit right next to bloody me rather than go to the back or the side of the room, meaning I couldn’t jump up and down quite as exuberantly as I wanted.

richard dawkins

Literally the only photo I took during the Nightwish gig – I’m no longer one of those types who feels the need to immortalise every gig in shaky phone-photos, but I felt I had to document Professor Richard Dawkins if nothing else!

So that was my year in metal. I’m counting it as a success; between the actual bands I wanted to see and the support acts, I’ve seen a whole host of new bands this year and heard a lot of new music. I’m hoping 2016 will be even better – hopefully I’ll be able to tootle off to a couple of music festivals in Germany, maybe one in Italy. And I’m excited to see who announces some touring for the latter half of the year!


*I just worked it out and I’ve actually only seen them thirteen times. Thought it was more than that so I no longer feel like quite such a terrible fangirl.