The Best of 2020

Well, that was a mad old year, wasn’t it? 2020 was more like a bizarre disaster movie than the regular fun ride that we’re used to. A pandemic made hermits of us all; working from home became the new normal for many and travel and events ceased to exist. A year from hell for most of us, though it’s far from over yet.

Here at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, we’ve aimed to soldier on and bring you the very best in blogging entertainment. Be it music, skateboards, toys or tat, whatever nonsense I could investigate was delivered with all the expected wit and style.

As is customary at this time, let’s take a look back at the top ten most popular blog posts of last year. Calling it “The Best of 2020” seems somewhat incongruous, but let’s roll with it for traditions sake.

10. Haiku – Autumn

An encouraging response to my creative writing, I was very surprised to see that this poetry piece in the Japanese Haiku style was my tenth most-read post of the year. Encore?

9. Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

There was a distinct lack of live music in 2020 (Obviously), but quite a few album reviews for my old pals at Ever Metal. This review of Swedish doom metal band Firebreather’s album was the most read at the Virtual Hot Tub.

8. Halloween Horror Fest 2020

The first of my annual horror movie reviews of 2020, this one featured the Hammer version of Dracula.

7. The Best of 2019

I’m not sure if last years top 10 blogs appearing here is a good thing or not? Either way, 2019’s round up of the most popular blogs was a winner.

6. STYLE: Safari Jacket

2020 saw the materialisation of the long-promised STYLE section at the Virtual Hot Tub. This first blog, concerning the wonderful Safari jacket, got us off to a great start.

5. Skate Art: Liane Plant/Death Skateboards

A feature about some of my favourite skate art, as created by the super talented Liane Plant for Death skateboards. Awesome stuff.

4. SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

More skateboard based action, with a playlist of songs from my skating youth in the late 80’s. Full of stone-cold classics, these songs still inspire my sessions today.

3. Death Star Playset

I love my vintage Death Star playset. Setting it up with original Star Wars figures for some blog photos was a lot of fun, it’s great to see it was popular!

2. 1980s Skateboard Style

More skateboarding, and another successful entry for the STYLE section! It’s me, dressed in old skate clothes from the late 80s that still fit (or did, before lockdown).

…And what will be the most popular, widely read blog of 2020? Drum roll, please:

  1. Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

Yes, the most popular was this food blog, which benefitted from a genuine traditional recipe, and an idea to recreate a Greek holiday vibe with ingredients from the local supermarket.

As travel wasn’t happening this year for most of us, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Greek recipe blog came out on top. It was written as an ode to holidays and Mediterranean sunshine, something that wasn’t a possibility for many last year. I hope you found some nostalgic comfort from this post.

Usually my annual Top 10 has featured a load of comic con events – or similar – at the top of the list. Those events didn’t happen this year, so the Top 10 has a very different flavour. Who knows what 2021 will bring us?

Whatever the strange pan-dimensional cross flux of crazy brings us next, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog. Please remember to pop by Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub as soon as you can!

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 27/09/2019

Running time: 49 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

You’ve got to hand it to the Swedes.  They’re pretty damn good at whatever they turn their hands to.  Cheese with holes in, chocolate, clocks… No wait, that’s the Swiss.  The Swedes are the ones who are awesome at flatpack furniture and – most importantly for us – music.

Firebreather are a trio of doom-mongers from Gothenburg in Sweden.  Comprising Mattias Noojd on vocals and guitar, Kyle Pitcher on bass and drummer Axel Wittbeck, these riff-lords are adept at creating massive, epic songs that are both brutal and beautiful.

The music pounds and pummels, but as in opening track “Dancing Flames”, the churning riff becomes hypnotically entrancing.  “Our Souls They Burn” is unleashed with a super-heavy grind that’s underpinned by a powerful groove.

It’s hard to pick a stand-out or favourite track, though the relentless structure of the songs creates a vast tapestry of music that blends together.  This is savage and also seductive, like the wilderness of their native Scandinavia.  Hence, we get the thunderous beat of title track “Firebreather” and the contrast of the slow rhythmic build and almost melancholic vibe of “The Siren”.

Repeated listens are definitely recommended: familiarity with “Under a Blood Moon” coaxes the songs to open up and reveal more treasures each time.  The listeners’ mind can imagine patterns and shapes cascading, like watching flames burn and dance.  It’s a solid album from Firebreather that only promises to grow and endure.

All this talk about fire-breathing brings back memories of my old mate Ronnie James Dio’s fascination with the Dungeons and Dragons board game.  Back in the early 80’s, when he was fronting Black Sabbath, Ronnie was obsessed with it.  He’d constantly badger the band to play it with him, which they did – begrudgingly.

Tony and Geezer amiably played along to humour their titan-voiced tiny singer.  I recall one time though, when Bill Ward had really had enough of elves and dragons – he threw a huge pitcher of ale over the game.  Ronnie was livid, Tony and Geezer were trying to stifle laughter.  Especially when Bill kicked the table, banged his big toe and fell about screaming in agony, ripping a hole in his wife’s tights.  Bill was always wearing his wife’s tights.  I think they kept him warm.

You can find Firebreather on Facebook and Twitter: @FIREBREATHERGBG.

Check them out on Bandcamp here.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal site, which you can visit here.