Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock & Metal Albums of 2021

Over the last year, I’ve reviewed a fair few albums for my pals at Ever Metal, and also continued on my never ending odyssey to explore new music. Old bands, new bands, from the big hitters to the up and comers. But what Rock and Metal albums were my favourites from 2021?

This list answers that question: here are the albums that I enjoyed the most from last year:

10. Stoner – Stoners Rule

9. Here Lies Man – “Ritual Divination”

8. Bloody Hammers – “Songs of Unspeakable Terror”

7. Melvins – “Working with God”

6. Acid Mammoth – “Caravan”

5. Barbarian Hermit – “One”

4. Red Fang – “Arrows”

3. Son of Boar – “Son of Boar”

2. Green Lung – “Black Harvest”

  1. 1968 – “Salvation, if you need…”

Another strong year for new music, 2021 managed to deliver that much, at least. There were plenty of other great releases from other artists, this is just my pick of the best – and it certainly wasn’t easy to narrow down to just this ten.

All of the above are superb records, and I’d strongly advise you to check them out. Read the full reviews on Ever Metal (where applicable) and also on here too, in the near future.

Let’s raise a glass to more great music in 2022 – and who knows, maybe some more gigs?!

The Best of 2021

That title seems like a bit of misnomer, doesn’t it? “The Best of 2021“. Following the unprecedented nonsense of 2020, last year we were all anticipating returning to normal, or as close as possible. Small victories were made during that time, but here we are again: a pandemic that seems to loom ever worse; the threat of lockdown and restrictions still a possibility; working from home if you can; vaccination after vaccination; and the same bumbling charlatans in charge of it all.

Hopefully it will all get better. It can’t get much worse (at least in terms of the virus, the post apocalyptic hell of Brexit is still to be reckoned with).

During 2021, Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub still aimed to entertain and inform. Sometimes we made it, sometimes we ballsed it up. But much of the blog content shone through regardless.

In the spirit of sharing success – and smiling in the face of adversity – here are the blog posts from 2021 that were most successful, in terms of views.

10. The Halloween Horror Fest Don’t Die

Halloween Horror Fest was another October highlight this year; this review featured The Dead Don’t Die and Hammer’s The Mummy.

9. Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock & Metal Albums of 2020

My other gig is writing reviews for Ever Metal – many of my reviews cropped up on this 2020 album list of favourites.

8. The Plague of Halloween Horror Fest

The last mini horror mvie reviews of 2021 featured The Plague of the Zombies and The Crow.

7. Bucket of Halloween Horror Fest

Another Hammer classic, with this review of The Gorgon.

6. Ryuko Interview

Published back in January 2021, this interview with alt rock band Ryuko at last years Pentre Fest originally appeared on Ever Metal, before it graced the Virtual Hot Tub.

5. Sci-Fi Weekender – Back to the Future

SFW was sadly destroyed like Alderaan due to the pandemic – but I dug up a few unseen pics from previous years to ease the pain.

4. Liverpool Comic Con 2021

As the year progressed and we appeared to be making a tentative return to events, I filed this report from Comic Con in Liverpool.

3. How Do Fossils Form? by Eloise Jones

The third most popular blog of the year was written by my super talented daughter. I might just hand the whole thing over to her…

2. Hawarden Limerick

A silly limerick about a local village, it proved popular for some bizarre reason.

And the number one, most popular blog of the year was…

  1. Millennium Falcon – The Greatest Toy Ever

Photos and memories of my vintage Star Wars Millennium Falcon toy, I think this blog is a justified winner! A fantastic toy and something I’m very proud of.

With a lack of events again in 2021, it’s no surprise that other blog subjects rose to prominence. Maybe the escapism of movie and toy reviews appealed to our audience this troublesome year.

We don’t know what will happen in 2022. Fingers crossed, the future looks brighter. But rest assured, Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub will be here for you. If you need a friend, or just some heavy metal reviews and photos of old toys, we’re never far away.

Christmas Tat 2021

In the continuing tradition of sharing some tacky Christmas baubles, here’s the single addition for 2021. Yes, just one new acquisition for the tree this year – I’ve really not seen as much silly, tacky nonsense on my limited travels recently. But fret not, this one’s a beauty!

Here we have a Christmas dinosaur: a bright blue triceratops adorned with sequins and jewels. What could be more festive than a dinosaur? Unless you’re an evolution denier, of course.

Whatever, I hope you like this latest addition to the Virtual Hot Tub Christmas tree.

Christmas dinosaur ball ball

And I’d also like to thank all the readers of my blog, the legendary Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub for your continued support. Please keep reading and let me know what you want to see in the year ahead.

Merry Christmas to all, and a wonderful New Year!

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #24

One of my favourite types of night in: a random stack of 7 inch vinyl, and a big old crate of booze. I’ve not held a Singles Night at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub for a little while, so allow me to put that right.

You see, I’ve got a load of 7″ singles that I haven’t listened to yet. They come from various sources, though most are second hand. So I play ’em through, A side then B side, and enjoy the sonic delights. Accompanied with a tipple of two.

Here’s the latest batch:

  1. Mudhoney – “Warning” / Meat Puppets – “One of These Days”
  2. Cockney Rejects – “The Greatest Cockney Rip Off” / “Hate of the City”
  3. Metallica – “The Unforgiven” / “Killing Time”
  4. The Shipbuilders – “Silk Road” / “La Fee Verte”
  5. Huey Lewis & The News – “Stuck With You” / “Don’t Ever Tell Me That You Love Me”
  6. The Archies – “Sugar, Sugar” / “Melody Hill”
  7. Boney M – “Painter Man” / “He Was a Steppenwolf”
  8. Twiggy – “Falling Angel” / “Virginia (And the Circus Side Show)”
  9. Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe – “Barcelona” / “Exercises in Free Love”
  10. Yes – “Going for the One” / “Awaken Pt. 1”
  11. Bad Manners – “Special Brew” / “Ivor the Engine”
  12. Kylie Minogue – “Better the Devil You Know” / “I’m Over Dreaming (Over You)”
  13. The Jam – “Going Underground” / “The Dreams of Children”
  14. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Cities in Dust” / “An Execution”
  15. Gary Numan – The Live E.P.: “Are “Friends” Electric?” / “Berserker” / “Cars” / “We Are Glass”
  16. Del Shannon – “Runaway” / “Jody”
  17. The Smurfs – “Silly Little Song” / “Little Smurf Boat”
  18. The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” / “Better Days”
  19. Stray Cats – “Stray Cat Strut” / “Drink That Bottle Down”
  20. Eurythmics – “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)” / “I Did it Just the Same”

From Metallica to the Smurfs, there’s a right old mixture in that playlist. A nice wide coverage of genres from pop, disco, ska, prog rock, punk and – wonder of wonders – even some opera. Not to mention all the various subgenres on the list (Goth? Post punk? New Wave? Make your own conclusions).

Another fine evening of music, I can recommend a Singles Night for the variety and fun. Dig out your old singles collection and have a knees up!

Barbarian Hermit – Album Review

Barbarian Hermit – One (Reissue)

APF Records (For the Lost PR)

Release date: 29/01/2021

Running time: 49 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

Writing these reviews for Ever Metal isn’t easy, you know.  I’m sure I speak for the whole writing team when I say that we pour our heart and soul into all our prose.  Each of us lives with the fear of the dreaded Writer’s Block, gnawing at our bones.  So, I decided that my review of this reissue of the 2016 debut album by Barbarian Hermit, released by the mighty APF Records, would need some help. 

But who could assist with such a task?  Why none other than my old friend, Volkrugg the Decimator – barbarian warlord of Ages Long Forgotten.  Of course: no-one is better qualified!  And seeing as I’ve basically been a hermit for the last year, between us we should have it covered.

Take it away, Volkrugg…

“Greetings, people of the 21st century!  I am Volkrugg the Decimator – warlord of the Mist Realm, conqueror of the Thorspian cities, leader of the barbarian hordes of Vossk.  My good friend, Al, has begged me for my musings concerning the recorded work of Barbarian Hermit, and lo – shall I render it unto thee with vicious glee!

“From the very start, these seven songs burst forth like an army of Ionian Thrask Vandals!  They wield their war axes with vengeful power, surging down from the mountains on thundering hooves of hell.  The brief respite of sometime calmer moods offer shelter from the maelstrom of war, yet always the majesty and power of conflict lurks temptingly!

“Verily, hearing these odes, I was mindful of my fallen brothers from glorious battles past – gone but ne’er forgotten, proudly drinking and brawling in Valhalla!”

There you go, I couldn’t have said it better myself.   “One” is a great, sludgy, fuzzy celebration of relentless force and mesmerising intricacies.  Both Volkrugg, his band of berserker warriors and myself are all big fans.  You’d be a fool of mythic proportions to miss this album, and be warned – Volkrugg fed his last court jester to a tiger.  Barbarian Hermit reviewed by a barbarian and a hermit – you can’t get a more honest opinion than that.

Seek Barbarian Hermit on Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter.

Heed the word of APF Records on the internet here, or visit them on Facebook, Bandcamp or Twitter.

This review has been presented to you by Ever Metal and Platinum Al.

The Plague of Halloween Horror Fest

Halloween may be over, but Platinum Al’s still got a couple of movie reviews for ya! Well, I didn’t get time to write ’em up before bed time on the 31st – so here they are!

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

In a small, remote village in Cornwall, a series of deaths from a strange disease has baffled local doctor Peter Thompson (Brook Williams). He requests assistance from his mentor, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell), who is accompanied on his journey by his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare).

When exhuming the plague victims graves reveals a lack of bodies, the doctors are stumped even further. Adding further complication is the tragic and mysterious death of Peter’s wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce). Soon, it becomes clear that the local Squire Hamilton (John Carson) – and his band of hedonistic goons – are mixed up in proceedings; with a mixture of voodoo and black magic…

Fans of the Walking Dead, or other modern zombie movies, may find this Hammer production somewhat tame by today’s standards, but there’s a lot to enjoy. The Plague of the Zombies takes a more traditional path with its tale rooted in voodoo, with a clever script that veers away from the usual Gothic creatures employed by Hammer.

Neither Lee or Cushing make an appearance, sadly – but the acting is particularly good never the less, with Andre Morell shining. The Plague of the Zombies is successful entertainment and shows Hammer trying to be innovative with it’s output.

8/10

The Crow (1994)

Our final film for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest is a 1990s classic that made a massive impression on me, when I first viewed it in the cinema.

In a city overrun with crime, musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancée are ruthlessly murdered by a criminal gang. One year later, Eric is revived through the spirit magic of a crow, to enact revenge on the killers. One by one, the perpetrators meet brutal ends, but the complicated web of crime continuously unravels, leading Eric to the gangster overlord, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott).

The Crow is a magnificently macabre, dark tale – a violent, action-packed revenge story with gothic supernatural elements. It may not be pure horror, but this twisted superhero drama is definitely pure Halloween. Brandon Lee is the soul of the movie, he’s both prefect and unforgettable in the role of Eric. Sadly, his accidental death during filming adds a haunting tone to the film. Even so, The Crow is a fine testament to Lee.

Visually stunning on the screen, the soundtrack is also fantastic: one of the greatest soundtrack albums ever compiled, it’s a classic of it’s time.

The Crow still has an incredible emotional impact. It’s a simple, moralistic fable wrapped up in a bloody revenge movie – with a sympathetic anti-hero and melancholic tone. Absolute class.

R.I.P. Brandon Lee

10/10

Mid Halloween Horror Fest

Midsommar (2019)

Written and directed by Ari Aster, Midsommar is both very different from the usual horror films, and is utterly captivating. At nearly two and a half hours long, the movie takes it’s time to slowly build a feeling of inevitable dread and reach it’s finale, but I was engrossed.

Dani (Florence Pugh) is grieving from the death of her sister and parents, finding little solace in her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Though their relationship is ending, Dani accompanies Christian and his anthropology student friends on a research trip to Sweden, to observe the mid summer rituals of a remote community. Every 90 years is a particularly special celebration, and this year is one of those – thus it’s a rare opportunity for them all.

The friends are welcomed into the commune, and begin to observe their practices and lifestyle in a land where the sun shines almost all day in summer. Gradually, the rituals become more unsettling, as the pagan rites become more and more bizarre and deadly. The isolation of Dani and her friends escalates, as the motivations of their hosts adds to their confusion.

I don’t want to give too much away about this film, as it really is superb. Some viewers will find it too long and drawn out, and the events too obscure and unexplained. But resisting the urge to rush into situations, taking time to develop the painfully unsettling atmosphere and sense of unease is handled spectacularly, I thought. There’s a level of detail in the onscreen clues and themes that is painstaking and engrossing.

Midsommar is folk horror, and comparisons to the wonderful The Wicker Man (1973) are only to be expected. There are a few scenes of brutal violence, but onscreen shocks are relegated to the minimal, sacrificed for an unbearably apprehensive descent to the conclusion. Pugh’s performance is phenomenal, her experiences are heart-breaking and disorientating and she bleeds emotion from the screen.

Deeply disturbing, yet fascinating, this particular folk horror is part mystery and part break up movie. Midsommar has been masterfully conceived and produced, it’s one of the best films – horror or otherwise – I’ve seen in a long time.

9.5/10

A Halloween Horror Fest on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Now here’s a film that should need no introduction. Though to be honest, back in the 80s when A Nightmare on Elm Street – and it’s sequels – were hugely popular, I was never a fan. I’ve just never been really into “Slasher” movies – I was investigating the classic Gothic horror of Hammer and Universal at the time, and modern, contemporary films just didn’t grab me.

Never the less, I decided to give Wes Craven’s original another go, just in case I was missing something.

Brief recap: a bunch of kids on Elm Street suffer from terrifying dreams, featuring a crispy faced dude wearing a mask and possessing a gardening glove customised with lethal blades. Yes, it’s evil child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and he intends not only to provide the kids with some unforgettable nightmares, he also wants to bloodily murderise them.

Revisiting this film was actually a lot of fun, I was surprised how well A Nightmare on Elm Street stood up. Yes, it’s incredibly dated, and ridden with clichés, but hey – these were new, original ideas back in the day. It’s not Gothic horror, but the supernatural elements are well plotted and help create the Krueger mythos.

Englund is great, though he’s more restrained in this first instalment. It’s always great to see John Saxon, who plays a cop here; and there’s an interesting debut from a fresh faced Johnny Depp, playing teenager Glen (who was probably about 40 at the time of filming).

Yes, I have been proven wrong – A Nightmare on Elm Street is actually a pretty damn good movie, with a mix of scares, peril and gore that shows Craven knows what he’s doing. Not the best film eve made, but I’m beginning to see how the cult of Freddy became so formidable. I’ll definitely check out the sequels.

8/10

The Indestructible Man (1956)

Convicted criminal “Butcher” Benton (Lon Chaney Jr.) is going to the electric chair, and he refuses to tell his bank robbing colleagues where the loot is. After being executed, Benton is brought back to life in an experiment. He then commences to seek revenge on his former partners, and the police are left to put the clues together and stop the gruesome murders.

A strange mix of the Frankenstein tale and 1950s cop show, this movie hardly feels like horror, but does have an impressive body count. Chaney has few lines – he’s mute for some reason, when resurrected – and we usually see his intense emotion only in wacky, extreme close up.

No points for originality here, but the film benefits from scenes representing the streets, bars and Burlesque clubs of old Los Angeles. As a period piece, The Indestructible Man is fun – it’s typical drive-in B-movie fare. Ironic that a couple of key scenes actually take place in a drive-in theatre!

6/10

The Halloween Horror Fest Don’t Die

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Wow – what a cast! Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits – amongst many others – star in this comedy horror from director Jim Jarmusch.

The Dead Don’t Die tells the story of a zombie apocalypse in a small US town, as we see events unfold from the point of view of two cops on patrol (Murray and Driver). Natural phenomena begins to go awry, and following the murder of two workers in the local diner, events escalate quickly. Soon enough, the police (together with Swinton’s samurai funeral director) scramble to retain control as hordes of zombies take over.

Although there are some wonderful performances in this film – Murray and Driver’s brilliantly understated cops being the best – this film doesn’t really succeed as a comedy or a horror film. The zombie arrival is very slow, and the conclusion seems rushed. The comedy is rarely laugh out loud hilarious, it’s mostly dry humour and deadpan delivery, and there’s a lot to enjoy in the approach that the movie takes.

The Dead Don’t Die follows it’s own path, avoiding the much more in-you-face approach of Zombieland. The film is an enjoyable and worthwhile watch, but it doesn’t quite achieve its potential. It’s more of an Indie arthouse spoof of the genre, but whilst it has it’s own peculiar charms, I was expecting much more. Maybe I should know more about Jim Jarmusch. Who is he, anyway?

7/10

The Mummy (1959)

Frankenstein? Check. Dracula? Check. Next on the horror hitlist for Hammer was The Mummy, and boy does it look great in splendid colour. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are, of course, on hand; as are Terence Fisher (director) and Jimmy Sangster (writer). You can’t go wrong.

It’s 1895, and an archaeological dig in Egypt finds the ancient tomb of of Princess Ananka. John Banning (Cushing) has a broken leg, and can’t enter the tomb, though it’s probably for the best. His dad Stephen does go in, despite the protestation of the Egyptian Mehemet Bey (George Pastell) and is driven mad by… something.

On returning home, Banning senior (Felix Aylmer) is in a nursing home, receiving care for the mentally disturbed. He becomes lucid enough to warn his son that he fears the mummy of Kharis, the high priest will destroy them all for entering the tomb.

Sure enough, the Mummy of Kharis (Lee) is awoken by Bey, and begins to take revenge for the disturbance. Will Banning be able to stop it’s rampage?

Predictably excellent work from Cushing here, as expected. And Lee is imposing as ever as Kharis, looking incredibly grim emerging from a swamp. The film does drag a little in the final third, but with the beautiful sets, a lush score and a decent story, The Mummy is unmissable for any Hammer fan.

8.5/10

Halloween Horror Fest of the Black Museum

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)

London – and there’s a murderer about! As per usual, really. A gruesome killing involving a pair of booby trapped binoculars has the police stumped, and arrogant crime journalist Edmond Bancroft can’t resist winding the cops up in his obsessive quest to find the killer. Bancroft’s research over the years has led to the creation of his own Black Museum, housing artefacts from various crime scenes.

Further ghastly deaths reveal no clues, and Bancroft admits to his doctor that he’s so engrossed in the proceedings, he goes into a state of shock when one occurs. Following a row with his mistress, after which she is mysteriously (and nastily) decapitated, we soon begin to witness another side to the writer – and his collection of weapons…

Horrors of the Black Museum doesn’t feature many surprises, but it does feature some quite horrific deaths! There’s a great British cast, including Michael Gough as Bancroft in a lurid, bloodthirsty tale. Not supernatural in any way, the plot still manages to hold the attention all these many years later.

8/10

Island of Terror (1966)

Sci-fi horror next, as a remote, tiny island of the east coast of Ireland becomes the scene of horrific deaths – locals are left as just a pile of mush, with no bones remaining in their bodies. Experts from the mainland Dr Stanley (Peter Cushing) and Dr West (Edward Judd) along with West’s lady friend Toni (Carole Gray) head over to investigate, only to be stranded with no immediate way to leave.

A nearby research lab on the island has unwittingly created new, silicon based creatures, which are rapidly multiplying. It’s not long before our heroes, and the remaining islanders, are cornered with no hope of escape against the deadly silicates. Can they find a way to stop the creatures before it’s too late for them all?

This film features a superb cast – Cushing is always a delight, and he’s great here – all giving credible performances that keep the implausible plot grounded. The creatures themselves are really quite terrible – sub-standard Dr Who globs of muck. But Island of Terror comes together nicely, with Director Terence Fisher using his skills to create an apocalyptic, Day of the Triffids style, peril filled movie.

8.5/10