2017: Year In Review

Last year when I did my annual review, I talked about how I felt as though I’d sleepwalked through the whole of 2016 (click here). I didn’t write, didn’t exercise, felt like I was sinking beneath a mountain of debt and like I’d never amount to anything. Amidst a pretty depressing backdrop of political upheaval, numerous celebrity deaths and an overwhelming sense of generational pessimism, it’s no wonder I felt so low.

BUT! I’m very pleased to report that 2017 could not have been more different. I made 3 New Years Resolutions and made excellent progress with every single one:

1. I trained my arse off and took part in Tough Mudder London South (and signed up again to take part next year).
2. I put my flat on the market and have successfully managed to find a buyer (I’m looking to move somewhere new with my boyfriend in early 2018).
3. And, most excitingly of all, at the time of writing I have added a whopping 76,088 words to The Mayorwith more to come before the year is out. Amazing! I’m on track to complete Book 1 before my new deadline of 28 February 2018.

The world is still a political clusterfuck of awful, but I’ve been patiently and steadfastly tending to my little patch and things are beginning to grow ♥

1. Album that surpassed all others:

Will To Power by Arch Enemy

Will To Power Arch Enemy

What. An. Album. A tremendous follow-up to War Eternal, Arch Enemy take their sound to new dizzying heights with their new guitarist Jeff Loomis and Alissa White-Gluz’s effortlessly versatile vocals. I don’t think there’s a single bad track on this album, but my favourite moments — hands down — have got to be:

  • Alissa’s delivery of “Get the guards and walk a dozen paces” in the gut-wrenchingly harrowing ‘First Day In Hell’; a tribute to her grandparents who survived a Nazi Concentration Camp.
  • The towering, sweeping empowerment of album closer, ‘A Fight I Must Win’.
  • The effortless slide from clean to harsh vocals in ‘Reason To Believe’ (the first clean vocals to ever feature on an Arch Enemy album).


Favourite tracks: ‘First Day In Hell’, ‘A Fight I Must Win’, ‘Blood In The Water’, ‘Reason To Believe’

2. Most missed artists:

Although Rasputina had an album out this year (The Feel Good Hits of 1817), I’ve come to realise that I sincerely miss the band they used to be. Melora Creager is making a concerted effort to completely remove herself from the internet, thus making anything new she puts out extremely difficult to get hold of. She’s vowed to make everything US Mail Order-only from now on i.e. no ordering online, no Paypal, no digital downloads and extremely limited pressings.

Whilst I totally get where Melora is coming from here (she got catfished quite spectacularly and it’s clearly messed with her quite badly), I do find her efforts unintentionally discriminate against fans who live abroad. For example, if she’d gone through with her original intention to make The Feel Good Hits of 1817 US Mail Order-only, it would have cost me £25 just to take out an international postal order, plus the cost of shipping which is $17 for an LP, $10 for a CD, plus the price of the album… a whopping total of $60-$70 for an album that was mostly covers and re-releases anyway. CRAZY!

But y’know, I’ll probably end up paying it anyway, because I’m a die-hard fan and will support this woman ’til the day I die. It just makes me infinitely sad that my favourite artists (like Melora Creager, Abney Park, Voltaire) rally so hard against the internet when I am literally only aware of their music because I discovered it through the internet in the first place ♥


3. Album that really surprised me:

Heart Shaped Wound by Aurelio Voltaire

Heart Shaped Wound

Surprising because of how personal it is!

Heart Shaped Wound contains a number of songs about gothic-folk musician Aurelio Voltaire’s tumultuous three-month relationship with an internet-famous cosplayer shortly after his divorce.

I distinctly remember Voltaire’s Instagram posts from around this time. Every single day he was posting pictures of himself with this young woman, shouting from the rooftops about how much he loved her, whilst she clearly didn’t feel the same way.

So when I heard the lyrics, “You get a tiny matching tattoo on that pristine canvas four decades new to impress a walking ransom note who’s got more ink than all the plays that Shakespeare wrote”, I did a double-take because I knew precisely who and what that song was about. Usually I’m not a fan of break-up songs. I mean, I don’t know the full story, but if any man came on to me that strong and then wrote an album about me after I broke up with him, I’d be pretty peeved! But hey, the music is good and Alissa White-Gluz features on one of the tracks… so hooray!

Favourite tracks: ‘The Folly of Love’, ‘Leaves In The Stream’ (feat. Alissa White-Gluz), ‘Human Nature’

4. Person I would most like to have tea with:

The inimitable Victoria Schwab. I’ve spoken at length before about how much I love this woman and why, so click here to learn more!

Victoria Schwab

5. The things I’ve completely had enough of:

The orange baby. Brexit. The rise of Nazism and the empowerment of the far-right. Theresa fucking May. Nigel “Garbage Fire” Farage. The political landscape in general. This whole year has been one huge political clusterfuck and it doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. Must. Stay. Strong.

6. The thing I wish I had bought myself but didn’t:

A Summer holiday. Mark and I went to Colombia very, very early on in the year (an… interesting experience), so by the time Summer rolled around, everyone else was disappearing off abroad whilst I was stuck at work with a broken air-con. It sucked.

7. Page-turner:


A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Magic! Princes! Pirates!)
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (Magic! Princes! Pirates!)
A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Magic! Princes! Faerie porn!)

8. Album that stirred my soul:

Ritual by In This Moment

Ritual in This Moment

Another album devoid of a single bad track. Though I confess myself a little disappointed at the complete lack of heavy vocals, Ritual is a stunning exercise in exquisite song-craft. From the galloping stampede of heavy-metal ‘Black Wedding’ (featuring Rob Halford of Judas Priest), to the beautiful vulnerability of ‘Twin Flames’. Ritual impresses again and again and again.  Plus every other song seems to be about setting someone on fire; my villain William Kale would have an absolute field day.

Favourite tracks: ‘Roots’, ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘Black Wedding’ (feat. Rob Halford), ‘Twin Flames’

9. Album that made me smile:

Kingslayer by Almanac

Almanac Kingslayer

I mean, with cover art like that how can you not smile?

Markedly leaning more towards the power side of symphonic metal than their previous effort, Almanac have once again delivered a stonker of an album with Kingslayer. This was a solid contender for ‘Album that surpassed all others’, very nearly knocking Will To Power off the top spot.

Favourite tracks: ‘Regicide’, ‘Hail To The King’, ‘Last Farewell’, ‘Guilty As Charged’

10. Most stylish person:

Edgar has been rocking his winter coat this year. He has essentially become an explosion of fur.


Such a majestic fluffbutt.

11. Best ‘thing’:

Successfully rescuing my boyfriend’s niece’s cat Dolly after she went missing for 10 whole weeks. I lost so much sleep over this, it was so distressing! She was incredibly shy and nervous cat, even before she escaped; she’d never set foot outside before, flat-out refusing to come when called; and, because her owners live over a pub, she was too terrified to come home with so many strangers about.

Thankfully, my boyfriend spotted her hiding out in the local field and we set a trap for her. We checked back after couple of hours and there she was! Terrified and very thin but otherwise perfectly healthy. We could hardly believe it!

She’s now back home now, safe and sound, and apparently has become much more confident and affectionate since her ordeal ♥


Also Mark and our friend Ant discovered the joy of The Panic Room this year!

So far we have successfully completed the Lovecraft-themed ‘The Gilman Hotel’ (i.e. the best escape room ever), ‘Old Father Time’ and ‘Defective Detective’. We’re booked in to do ‘The Dollhouse’ next… God knows why. It’s a horror-themed room and I’m a wimp; I could hardly handle Gilman!

I cannot recommend these guys enough! They have two locations: one in Gravesend and one in Harlow.

12. Favourite visual feast:

The Loot Train Attack scene in Game of Thrones (S7:E4). WOWZA. Chills. Here’s a cool video on the making of it:

13. Best fictional character since Sirius Black:

This year is the year I became obsessed with a bat-winged faerie prince called Rhysand. Click here to read a little bit more about him; he’s the most recent addition to my list of Top 10 Book Boyfriends.


14. Coolest rock star:

Victoria Schwab. Wait, what do you mean she’s not a rock star?!

VE Schwab

QUEEN. See my answer to Question 4 above.

15. Best gig:

It’s a toss-up between going to see Evanescence at the Eventim Apollo (14 June 2017) for the sheer nostalgia value, or Amaranthe at the Islington Assembly Hall (3 November 2017). So much crackling energy and a stellar setlist!

Sadly I never got round to writing a review for either of these events because I’ve been so busy squirrelling away at The Mayor. I hope to be able to write more gig reviews in 2018 once Book One of The Mayor is complete.

16. Most special moment:

My long-weekend away with my boyfriend in November. We visited the wonderful ‘Terry Pratchett: His World’ exhibition in Salisbury, saw the Magna Carter, and took in the gorgeous Georgian architecture and Roman baths of Bath.

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 14.52.02

17. Song of the year:

‘Roots’ by In This Moment has become my anthem for 2017.


18. Biggest achievement:


Tough Mudder

Without a doubt the hardest thing (physically) I’ve ever had to do in my life. I laughed. I cried. I almost died. Nothing can compare to the sheer elation and sense of accomplishment upon crossing that finish line!

Best Obstacle: Block Ness Monster
Worst Obstacle: Arctic Enema (BECAUSE I THOUGHT I WOULD DIE)

19. Biggest regret:

Je ne regrette rien.

20. New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Complete Book One of The Mayor
  2. Complete a second draft of The Mayor
  3. Move in with my boyfriend and our menagerie of animals

Bonus! Instagram’s #2017 Best Nine:


Happy New Year!

S.E. Berrow

For more information on items, people or bands mentioned in this post, please click the below links:









‘Rhysand’ fan art is by Taratjah.

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