When the Boss sent a message asking for reflections of 2022, I put my thinking cap on and wondered about topics that I could cover. It’s been a cracking year for rock and metal, with resurgences in prog, thrash, death, and classic rock to name but four of the many genres we love. I covered over 350 albums across the sites I write for, so could have spent ages writing about my favourites. Ironically, it was an album that I didn’t even get the opportunity to review, the magnificent An Hour Before It’s Dark by the evergreen Marillion that took my top spot for the year. I know it was going to be Number One from the moment I pressed play, such is the immersive, emotional journey that Steve Hogarth and band took me on. But there were hundreds of others across the year, some I reviewed, some I didn’t, which also took my breath away.
But it was the live arena which really focused my attention in 2022. After two years of the pandemic, and the fear that the hysterical overreaction that gripped the entire world for 18 months would spell the cessation of gigs forever, there was a warmth, a real passion, and an appetite for live music for most once more. Where to start though? Well, here’s a quick journey through my gigging year, focusing on those bands who I covered for Moshville Times, with maybe the odd addition of the odd one that I may have attended for other publications, or even just for the sheer joy of it!
Most of my gigs centre on smaller, local shows. I hit The Globe in Cardiff for my first Moshville assignment in February and a thrash extravaganza. It was a case of the old school taking the youngsters to school as legends Evile demonstrated why they still carry gravitas when it comes to UK thrash. Openers Tortured Demon, now confirmed for the Sophie Stage at BOA in 2023 are a promising outfit, but the youngsters will take a few more years before they can command the same respect as the Mancunians. Sandwiched in between, Divine Chaos continue to flex their metal muscles in a good way as well.
One of my regular haunts is Fuel Rock Bar in Cardiff, and it was another highlight of 2022 when Danish death metal maestros Baest rolled into the Welsh capital in April and levelled the venue with a highly impressive and brutal set. They would do the same in the scorching heat at BOA a few months later, but this time on the main stage. Support from the ever-reliable blackened death of Damim made it a night which lingered long in the memory. By contrast, a trip over the bridge to see The Treatment, Piston and South of Salem brought a different vibe altogether, although one that was just as enjoyable. The Treatment never give anything but 100% and it was great to see them at Stonedead on the main stage later in the year.
I’m pleased to have an eclectic taste in music, and it showed with two shows at the Thekla, the boat in Bristol dock where I had an evening of down-tuned fuzz courtesy of Stoner and a week later, some progressive rock from the incredible Von Hertzen Brothers at the same venue. Both shows were magnificent. Having navigated the South Wales M2TM competition alongside all these shows, I headed for the horrible O2 Academy in Bristol on a photo only assignment for the talented Tremonti. I’m hugely appreciative of his talent, but after the photos were taken, it was an early departure, for this is a venue where capacity means no view if you aren’t in position early on.
Thankfully, the Great Hall at Cardiff Students’ Union affords better sight lines, and it was time for another legendary band in the shape of Rival Sons, who are a band I can listen to all day long. Support on the night came from Dirty Honey, who wowed the audience with a show of real sleazy quality. I also took what turned out to be my favourite shot of the year, quite how I’m not sure, but I’ll take the photo of Scot Holiday anyway.
After the fire and the flame of Rammstein at the Principality Stadium (more metal gigs there please!) it was time to head up the mountain on my annual jaunt to Steelhouse Festival. As always, we had every weather known, but the three-day event improves every year and with a more unusual cast including Green Lung and Orange Goblin bringing some much-needed variety to the event, it turned out to be one of the best. 2023 is looking brilliant and I’ll be pestering the Boss to get back to a festival a mere 30 minutes from home once more.
Talking of weather, whilst I wasn’t on duty at Bloodstock, I was there as both punter and reviewer and my god, I’ve never experienced anything like it. How the teams managed to work all days is beyond me, as it was punishing enough to survive with regular dips out of the sun, but call me sadistic, I’d prefer it to be like that than raining. It was a good Bloodstock though, with some stellar sets including two massive headline shows by Mercyful Fate and Lamb of God as well as the cabaret of Behemoth. Two more festivals followed, with Arctangent providing an alternative option whilst the sun once more blazed through the excellent Stonedead weekend. My first visit, coverage from the field only, but it was such fun that a return is on the cards in 2023.
Moving into the cool of the autumn saw me cover shows by Bossk at The Globe, Everygrey at Thekla and the musical feast that was the Vikings and Lionhearts tour when it rolled into Cardiff’s International Arena in September. He has his critics, but Robb Flynn usually hits Wales on tour and this show saw Machine Head deservedly take all the plaudits with a show of real passion and fire. Back in the photo pit at the O2 in Bristol saw New York’s thrash kings Anthrax in imperious form, and I even managed to secure a vantage point to enjoy the show after those precious photos were taken.
Although I wasn’t on duty for MT for a while, I got to see Marillion, Saxon, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Opeth over the space of about six weeks, and if ever there was proof that the old guard are not ready to give up the mantle, it was shown by these outfits. And I include Opeth in this collection, for they are now 30 years into their own journey, which makes them veterans in my book.
Back to Thekla for MT and a night of technical brilliance with the Faces of Death tour. Five bands delivered a stunning night of death metal, with change overs that would rival a formula one pit crew. This was followed by a complete change of tempo as a dark Sunday night at Fuel saw Pantheist provide a reminder of why they are a revered band in their doom circles. Three days later I was at Tramshed in Cardiff for my final Moshville assignment of the year and the rescheduled Magnum show, another UK outfit who 50 years later show no signs of slowing up. It was a masterful performance, and one that I rank in alongside anything else that made me smile in 2022.
So, there you have it. A brief reflection of the year. There were plenty of other gigs but overall, it was just fabulous to be back in the pit. 2023 already looks stacked, so fingers crossed, we’ll be spoilt for choice once more. Keep an eye out for me in my MT tee, and I’ll be happy to say hello and chat rubbish! Happy New Year!