It's that time of year again and what a year it has been, and now it's time to start publishing the Best Of 2016s from our key people and on 31st December we'll be announcing the end result, one winner from each category. Here's Mark's Best Of 2016s...
BEST BAND: AC/DC
Yes, you've read that right... in what was the most sensational story of the year, firstly with shows in North America being postponed because Brian Johnson was apparently in danger of losing his hearing and then even more controversially, pantomime villain Axl Rose stepped up to the mic stand to help his favourite band complete the tour.
Critcs and fans were divided but the show had to go on. A lot of blame was being thrown in Angus Young's direction and accusations of turning the legendary band into a tribute act flew.
But praise must go to Angus who despite the drama of losing his brother Malcolm to ill health and Phil Rudd hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, along with the unthinkable task of Axl Rose parading the stage in place of Johnson, Angus has kept his head down, kept schtum as much as possible and just got on with playing high energy rock'n'roll. This story ain't over yet.
The British veterans are working harder than ever before but praise goes to the Barnsley bashers for supporting Motörhead last year on which they must have known would've been 'Head's last hurrah with Lemmy's obvious deteriorating health. When the iconic legend did pass away, Saxon teamed up with his former bandmates to play an historic set at Hammersmith Odeon at the Golden Gods in his memory. Saxon's most recent tour had Lemmy in spirit with Fast 'Eddie' Clarke's Fastway and Girlschool in support.
3. BLACK STONE CHERRY
The Kentucky boys have had quite a year in the UK, performing the arenas at the beginning of the year, headlining the Ramblin' Man Fair and returning for a third time for an intimate theatre tour where the band supported themselves every night with an acoustic set before going all gung-ho with the electrics.
BEST GIG: STRAY, BORDERLINE, LONDON
A special evening where the highly overlooked British rockers celebrated their 50th anniversary with a reunion of the original line-up who performed together for the first time in twenty-three years. A magical evening.
2. SCORPIONS: SUNTEC ARENA, SINGAPORE
Those crazy Germans just keep on going and you really only appreciate what a massive appeal the band have when you see them on foreign soil where fans know the words to every song. A dynamite performance from a band still very much at the top of their game.
3. AC/DC: OLYMPIC STADIUM, LONDON
Disgruntled fans were offered refunds when it was announced that Axl Rose was stepping into Brian Johnson's place. Those who smugly stayed at home missed a cracker as a calmer, down to earth Axl smashed it, handling the Bon Scott era tracks with aplomb. The first ever concert held at this venue too where Axl will return in 2017 with Guns N' Roses.
BEST ALBUM: DIAMOND HEAD: 'DIAMOND HEAD'
No longer living on borrowed time, NWOBHM heroes Diamond Head never fulfilled their early promise. Guitarist Brian Tatler is the sole remaining member from the original line-up, now they're revitalised with a new vocalist in Danish-born Rasmus Bom Andersen, who respects the band's past while stamping his own character on the older songs, adding a new, improved dimension.
Not only is this a new beginning, but it's their best work since their first two official albums, released over three decades ago. Diamond Head were once brazenly tipped to be the next Led Zeppelin, which set them a daunting task, and there remain elements of them in opening track 'Bones' which benefits from seemingly steroid-enhanced, Kashmir-like riffs. Diamond Head sparkle when they take their foot off the gas and take the time to explore, as with the demonic chug of 'Set My Soul On Fire', or the creeping danger of 'Blood On My Hands', while 'Our Time Is Now' showcases imposing bass work from Eddie Mohan.
There are some atmospheric string arrangements on 'All The Reasons You Live', which has echoes of early Def Leppard and the Led Zep flavour continues on the mountainous epic 'Silence'.
2. METALLICA: 'HARDWIRED... TO SELF-DESTRUCT'
It had been almost a decade since their previous effort, 'Death Magnetic', and most fans had given up all hope of a new 'Tallica album, so it came as a surprise when news broke that a new LP was done and dusted. By no means a classic, but just good to hear some fresh meaty headbanging riffs from what are essentially one of Metal's greatest live acts... welcome home...
3. THE STRUTS: 'EVERYBODY WANTS'
Largely ignored over here, The Struts did a Def Leppard and conquered America with their glam pop flavoured stick of rock and a vocalist who is a deadringer for a young Freddie Mercury in Luke Spiller who the guys want to smack and the girls want to bed. With anthems in the making, the world is there for the taking for these Derbyshire lads.
BEST FESTIVAL: RAMBLIN' MAN FAIR
The sunny weather lent a helping hand but yet again the Ramblin' Man Fair proved to be a winner. A family friendly festival that caters to lovers of the older classic rock bands as well as the rising talent. Comfortable crowds numbers in a scenic area all make for a great weekend away with rock loving friends.
CATS IN SPACE: 'ONLY IN VEGAS'
I'm a sucker for a hummable tune and this video proves what can be done on a low budget, with good humour and a little bit of imagination.
BEST NEW BAND: INGLORIOUS
Inglorious' anticipated eponymously named debut album was released at the beginning of the year to rave reviews. Strong songs, a confident frontman with superlungs in Nathan James and an ever growing fanbase will ensure longevity for the Frontiers signings. A new album coming in 2017 will see them move up to the next level.
LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2017
2017 could well be the last golden year for the old guard. Deep Purple have a new album, 'InFinite', on the way and their 'Last Hurrah' tour and Aerosmith are signing out at Download. Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow return again including a headline slot at the Stone Free Festival and the nightmare continues with the immortal Alice Cooper and Judas Priest are rumoured for some summer dates. Watch them all before it's too late.