Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock and Metal Albums of 2020

Good riddance, 2020! Am I right, or what? Still, it’s not all bad. There were some absolutely magnificent albums released last year – some I reviewed for my buddies at Ever Metal, some I discovered through other means. Some were massive, huge hits; others were small yet mighty triumphs.

Despite a lack of live music, there was plenty to investigate music-wise. So much so that it was really difficult to compile my annual Top 10 Albums list for Ever Metal. A few giants of rock and metal, though they released highly accomplished work, were reluctantly forsaken in my search for the crème de la crop.

Here they are, in (natch) reverse order:

10. The Goners – “Good Mourning”

9. Supersuckers – “Play That Rock’n’Roll”

8. Testament – “Titans of Creation”

7. Weed Demon – “Crater Maker”

6. The Atomic Bitchwax – “Scorpio”

5. Volcanova – “Radical Waves”

4. The Brothers Keg – “Folklore, Myths and Legends of The Brothers Keg”

3. Son of Boar – “Stoned Wail”

2. Desert Storm – “Omens”

  1. AC/DC – “Power Up”

I thought that this year, one of the smaller, indie label bands was sure to get to number 1. It almost happened, but then AC/DC released the total brain melter of “Power Up”, pretty much saving 2020 in the process. Now if only Angus and Co could release an album monthly, we might be able to get through 2021.

A few shout outs for notable mentions who didn’t make the cut this year, such as Ozzy, Wino and others. Seriously can’t believe I left out “Danzig Sings Elvis”, though.

You can read my full Top 10 (plus plenty of others) on the Ever Metal website, which also features links to songs and videos. Highly recommended! The direct link is here.

All the best for 2021 – here’s hoping for more great music!

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!

The Best of 2019

Happy New Year, readers!  And welcome back to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub – the web’s number one virtual location for soaking in warm, relaxing waters and enjoying my virtual adventures.

What a year 2019 has been.  I’ve been to Comic Cons; written album reviews for Ever Metal; indulged in another traditional Halloween Horror Fest – and finally managed to get to a few gigs.  Food and drinks reviews, as well as toy and tat blogs, have also made a comeback.

But what have been the most popular and widely read blogs in the last year?  Let’s rewind the clocks and take a look, with a good ol’ countdown from ten to the number one spot…

10. Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

At last!  Some Halloween Horror Fest love, with my final set of reviews breaking into the Top 10.  A first for my horror movie reviews, as far as I remember.  A triple bill of The Wolf Man, Little Shop of Horrors and Lust for a Vampire.

9. New Deck 2019 – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

All about my latest skate set-up, including sexy pictures of a very fine skateboard.

8. Ewok Village Playset

My vintage Star Wars Ewok Village playset made a welcome appearance.  I must feature some more of my collection in the future.

7. That Beer Place

Very happy to see such a cool local beer emporium prove so popular.  Well done, That Beer Place!

6. Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

A great day out, and the blog didn’t fare too badly at all.  No sign of Part 2 in the countdown, though…

5. Death by Tacos, Chester

The number one food place in Chester makes a justified appearance in the Top 5 most popular blogs.  Awesome food and service.

4. Tat Trek Update #8: Jo Guest Strip Pen

Miracle of miracles – an item from my Tat collection rockets into the most popular blogs for the first time ever!  Perhaps the saucy nature of the Jo Guest strip pen is to blame…

3. Wales Comic Con 2019

Always a great Comic Con, with fantastic guests and most importantly – as evidenced by this blog – amazing cosplay.

2. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

The first part of my visit to the NEC for Comic Con made it to the number two spot.  Few words but plenty of brilliant cosplay.

And now – announcing the Most Read Blog of 2019 at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  What could it be?  Why it’s…

1. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

Only a couple of views more than Part 1, but Part 2 takes the crown for the most popular blog this year!

It’s great to see a variety of different topics be successful this year.  Comic conventions, food and skateboards always fare well, but I’m very happy to see Star Wars toys and a bit of tat break through for the first time.I’ll endeavour to deliver more in 2020 – who knows what we’ll see?

My thanks to all my readers over the last year – I appreciate every single view, like and comment.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2018

2018 was a great year for music.  So much so, that I struggled condensing all those tasty new tunes into a top ten – and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right.  There are several other albums that could have featured in an annual top ten, but for reason or other didn’t make the cut.

Anyway, those cool folks at Ever Metal asked me to put together a list of my ten favourite rock and metal releases for the year.  I did so, Ever Metal posted it, and I thought I’d share with my Virtual Hot tub readers too.

So here we go, in reverse order:

  1. Ghost – “Prequelle”
  2. Gama Bomb – “Speed Between the Lines”
  3. Orange Goblin – “The Wolf Bites Back”
  4. Earthless – “Black Heaven”
  5. 1968 – “Ballads of the Godless”
  6. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Wasteland”
  7. Monster Magnet – “Mindfucker”
  8. Corrosion of Conformity – “No Cross No Crown”
  9. Fu Manchu – “Clone of the Universe”
  10. Clutch – “Book of Bad Decisions”

Hope you did a Smashy and Nicey voice in your head whilst you counted that down.

Some classic albums there, in my opinion at least.  Honorable mentions are due for Sleep, High on Fire and Satan’s Satyrs (amongst others) who just missed out.  Who knows, next week I might have changed my mind.

Finally, a big thanks to the Ever Metal team for having me on board.  It’s a real honour to be part of the team, and writing for the site has been one of my highlights of last year. Here’s to contributing more in 2019.  Cheers!

Visit the Ever Metal site here and check out some cool music!

The Best of 2018

Happy New Year, everybody!  I’d like to wish all the visitors to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub the very best of times in 2019.  And thank you for sticking with me, popping along to dip your toes in the warm water and supporting this valiant endeavour.

Last year saw tremendous ups and downs for us all.  But throughout it all, the rock’n’roll world of the Virtual Hot Tub persevered, thanks to you!

Join me now, as I take a look at the Top 10 most read blog posts from 2018:

10. Skateboard Museum: SMA Jim Thiebaud

A classic late 80’s skateboard created a warm nostalgic buzz, becoming one of the most successful posts of the year.

9. Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

In June I went to see rock’n’roll supergroup Hollywood Vampires in Manchester – the live review proved very popular.

8. Pentre Fest 2018

Another live gig – this time for underground metal bands playing near to home – scored just slightly higher than Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp.  Go figure.

7. MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 2

Only published in early December 2018, the second part of my NEC Comic Con write up has performed very well.

6. Sci-Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 3

The sheer volume of pics from this years Sci Fi Weekender demanded a third post, which featured more cosplay antics to finish things off nicely.

5. The Crippens – Gig Review

Another live review, this time several bands headlined by The Crippens at the Tiv, has done really well for views – which is great to see.

4. MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 1

The first part of our trip to Birmingham was an unsurprising success, chock full of my mediocre photos as it was.

3. Wales Comic Con 2018

This post from early December’s Comic Con in Wrexham did really well thanks to a loyal WCC fanbase and some great cosplay.

2. Sci-Fi Weekender – Part 2

The second part of my SFW round up did very well, combining an over view of the event with loads of pics.  Of course, it was the cosplay pics people were interested in, though!

1. Sci-Fi Weekender – Part 1

However the first part of my SFW campaign review was the most read blog post at the Hot Tub for 2018 – performing amazingly.

A few surprises there – nice to see the gig reviews being well received.  However the triumph of the Comic Cons was pretty much a no-brainer!

Thanks once again to all of my readers – you make Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub the success it is.  Here’s a toast to more fun and games in 2019!

My Top 10 Christmas Songs

I’ve chickened out of writing this list for a long time.  That’s because there are so many great Christmas songs, that it’s a real struggle to narrow it down to just 10.  There are a few songs that simply have to be on the list, but I cringe thinking about those that didn’t make the it.

But I’ve been really ruthless, and narrowed it down to ten classic Christmas tunes that I love:

10. The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping”

A great, funky little pop number that always gets me dancing in the aisles doing my Christmas shopping.  I know nothing about this group other than this song, but this is sheer class.

9. Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”

The Ramones hark back to their 70’s glam rock influences with this festive banger.  It’s great to have a really influential, cool band in the top 10 (much better than Wham! for example).

8. Showaddywaddy – “Hey Mr Christmas”

This Showaddywaddy song is criminally unknown these days.  It really is a classic bit of 70’s stomping/clapping/singalong fun.  Do yourself a favour and rediscover this gem now!

7. Dean Martin – “”I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”

There are loads of awesome Christmas tunes from the master, Dean Martin (Baby It’s Cold Outside, Let It Snow!…, etc).  But this track is my top pick from Deano, if only for the wonderfully uplifting instrumental introduction.  You can argue if this tune is actually a Christmas song or not, but it’s on the indispensable “Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails” album, so I’m claiming it.

6. Wizzard –  “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”

Another glam rock 70’s nugget.  Absolutely essential.  It seems like I’ve heard this song all my life – I probably have – and it never gets boring.  Christmas magic!

5. The Crystals – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

Timeless stuff from the wonderful “A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector” album.  You’ve heard this song on film soundtracks, everywhere – it instantly conjures up a vivid feeling of Christmas nostalgia.  Superb.

4. Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

Another track from the Phil Spector record (if you don’t own it, get it.  You need it).  The fantastic intro and Wall of Sound production are just perfect.  Sends a Christmassy shiver down your spine every time.

3. The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York”

Nowadays it’s as traditional as Christmas pud.  “Fairytale of New York” has grown on me massively over the years – it’s now an essential part of the festivities.

2. Shakin’ Stevens – “Merry Christmas Everyone”

Instantly recognisable, the Welsh Elvis rocks out a total seasonal masterpiece.  Newsflash: Shaky is, was, and always will be COOL.  This song is crucial for any Crimbo fun.

So what’s number one in my festive all time top ten?  It can only be…

1. Slade – “Merry Christmas Everybody”

Forget the Coca Cola truck, the official start of the Christmas (not “holiday”) season is when you first hear Noddy bellow “It’s Chriiisstmaaaaasss!”  In the 1970’s, Christmas was great.  This is the sound of every family get together from then and ever since.  Unbeatable.

There you go – my Top 10 Christmas songs.  I may need to re-visit this next year, maybe do a top 20 – just to cover off a few of the great songs that didn’t make this list.

Though there’s no way that East fucking 17 will ever get in here.

Merry Christmas to all my readers! 

Essential Tracks – Nirvana

“Essential Tracks” is a new Music section at the Virtual Hot Tub.  In this ongoing series, I’ll be picking my favourite tracks from a particular artist.  Here’s the very first instalment.

Nirvana – the Top 20 Songs

Sadly, 5th April marks twenty years since the death of Kurt Cobain.  It seems somewhat unreal that so much time has passed.  I remember buying Nevermind as soon as it came out in 1991.  I remember hearing about Kurt’s death when it was announced.  Such a great artist and unique, complex music.  This is a list of my favourite Nirvana songs.

20. Come As You Are

A great song, over familiarity has probably knocked this track down the table.  Find it on Nevermind.  As a point of interest, my old band used to cover this.  We performed it live on the second anniversary of Kurt’s death; it received a warm response.  At that point (in the pre-internet) we hadn’t realised the significance of the date, it had been a coincidence.

19. You Know You’re Right

From the Nirvana compilation.  Awesome song – classic Nirvana soft/heavy dynamic.

18. Been A Son

My version of this song is from the Incesticide album.  Fast paced, a catchy melody – and lyrics worth the time to listen to.

17. Lithium

One of the classic Nevermind songs, this has a fantastic sing a long chorus that shows Kurt’s ear for a fine tune.

16. Serve the Servants

Opening track from the superb In Utero album, I’ve surprised myself that I haven’t placed this song higher in my own list.  Love it.  “Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old”.

15. Negative Creep

Absolutely brutal riff.  One of the heaviest, punkiest songs in the Nirvana catalogue.  Perhaps something of an early Melvins influence here, probably some Black Flag too.  You can find it on Bleach.

14. Molly’s Lips

Out-standing cover version of a Vaselines song, on the Incesticide album.  Unbelievably  poppy despite buzzing guitars, it’s a blueprint that Cobain adopted and mastered.

13. Territorial Pissings

Another hardcore punk attack, though Territorial Pissings still retains a melody despite the speed and fury.  Awesome instrumental break and reliably quotable lyrics.  Nevermind again.

12. On A Plain

It’s really hard to select the best songs from an album as indispensible as Nevermind, but I remember this track always stood out for me.

11. All Apologies

This gem doesn’t get in the Top Ten?  I know, ridiculous, right?  It’s on In Utero and there’s a pretty cool version on the MTV Unplugged set, too.

10. Sliver

We start the Top Ten with a great pop tune that, incredibly, wasn’t on the major releases.  You can pick it up though, on Incesticide – and I suggest you do.

9. Something In The Way

This song and Polly offer some quieter, haunting moments on Nevermind.  When we get to the chorus and the cello comes in, it’s heart break time.

8. Pennyroyal Tea

Like quite a few of Kurt’s songs, Pennyroyal Tea sneaks in quietly before launching into different territory.  Brilliant song from In Utero that demonstrates perfectly the melding of melody and mayhem in the best Nirvana tunes.

7. About A Girl

An early hint of Kurt Cobain’s ability to create a beautiful pop song; it’s no surprise that he was a huge Beatles fan.  Find it on Bleach, there’s also a killer version on MTV Unplugged.

6. Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle

“I miss the comfort in being sad”, quiet/loud/quiet/loud; great riff.  Wonderful track from In Utero, complete with scathing lyrics.

5. Scentless Apprentice

Dun-dun-der-der! D-der der d-der d-der!  Do I really need to say more?  So heavy.  It must have scared the Indie scenesters to death.  Run for the hills, Indie scenesters!

4. Where Did You Sleep Last Night

A cover of the Leadbelly song, found on the MTV Unplugged album.  Kurt sounds truly agonised on this exceptional song, though it retains it’s beauty.

3. Dive

Apparently written as a Soundgarden style song, in an effort to appeal to their label Sub Pop and get signed.  It should come as no surprise, however, that Kurt – a huge Black Sabbath fan – would be able to create a riff as heavy as this.  Heavy like a brontosaurus breaking rocks.  With a big fucking hammer.

2. Smells Like Teen Spirit

This is the big one.  Iconic, revolutionary – but Nirvana’s best song?  I don’t think so.  Not to deny it’s power, maybe I’ve just heard it a little too much.  Still great though.  It’s on Nevermind, but you knew that, right?

1. Heart Shaped Box

Allegedly, Courtney Love heard Kurt writing this song, loved the immortal riff, and asked if he would donate it to her.  Kurt declined, and apparently locked himself in a cupboard to finish it off.  The quintessential quiet/loud dynamic.  Utterly unforgettable.  This, for me, is Nirvana’s best song.

So there you go – my Top 20 Essential Nirvana songs.  And I didn’t mention the word “grunge” once.

Compiling this list was much more difficult than I anticipated.  I was forced to leave out some absolutely classic songs; like In Bloom, Rape Me, Aneurysm and Nirvana’s amazing cover of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World.  There are others, too.

I reserve the right, in all Essential Tracks posts, to revise my thoughts at a later date.  Already, I’m thinking that Scentless Apprentice should’ve been number 1.

Dun-dun-der-der! D-der der d-der d-der!