2022 Crew Review: Ross Green – Deputy Editor-in-Chief

Honestly, as much as I despise the rampant four months of Christmas being forcefully rammed down our throats until we vomit, I like this time of year. I think about writing this article all year. Every time I go to a show or listen to a new album, I think: “Will this make it onto my year-end list?” Or that new band I discover, will they get a mention? And of course, it’s about getting our ducks in a row and looking forward – what am I looking forward to when it comes to music in the next twelve months.

Last time when we wrote these, live music had just come back and there was a shadow of uncertainty looming over it. Now, a year later, live music is well and truly back and bands are still thankful for people for coming out as some bands are only just emerging from their own cocoons. Indeed, as with many other years in writing this, there’s been some incredible music released, some amazing gigs and frankly, 2023 has a lot to live up to. So let’s hope you’re sitting comfortably.

Album of the Year

Absolutely no surprise with this one. Slash reconvening his Conspirators for album four led to another amazing collection of songs. It may not have hit the dizzying heights of predecessor, Living the Dream, but it was the band firing on all cylinders and making their most complete album of their decade-long career with not a single weak song to be found. 4 is a reminder of how great no-frills hard rock can be, especially when it’s powered by Slash’s trademark sound. Now, if we could get some UK dates in support of it, that would be great.

Top Albums (in alphabetical order):

  • Bowling For Soup – Pop Drunk Snot Bread. As much as I enjoy Bowling For Soup, I never usually find myself listening to a full album of theirs on repeat. Yet this one I kept coming back to because it was just a lovely welcome dose of sunshine for the ears and reminiscent of Bowling For Soup’s heyday.
  • Clutch – Sunrise on Slaughter Beach. Almost a direct response to their previous album, the Maryland rockers made their most varied album to date and far shorter than what came before. Yet it still contains some of my favourite Clutch songs. They wear experimentation well.
  • Crobot – Feel This. This is the most Crobot album you could ever hope to listen to. It’s like all their past releases took a bunch of steroids and the band listened to all of them in such a format, took all the best bits and crafted it into this album. It’s glorious.
  • Ghost – IMPERA. Jesus. Fucking. Christ. This album. If it wasn’t for Slash, this would be occupying the top slot. Taking everything that’s great about Ghost and condensing it into this album has Tobias Forge’s fantasy of Alice Cooper fronting Queen in full effect here. Add in a whole load of 80s style production and it would appear their ascent to the top isn’t stopping anytime soon. Opening track “Kaiserion” is the band and the album distilled into one five-minute mission statement.
  • Ginger Wildheart and the Sinners – Ginger Wildheart and the Sinners. Honestly, one of the most fun albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s good time rock and roll for the ears and chicken soup for the soul. There’s a couple of covers, Ginger doesn’t even sing lead vocals on all the songs but I’ll be damned if you’re not smiling from start to finish when you’ve got this on.
  • Halestorm – Back From the Dead. Darkness works well for Halestorm. As Lzzy Hale and co. emerged from the pandemic with this in their arsenal, they had their most mature album to present to us. Making one of their best albums in a catalogue full of records, this is the one where every song is meant for the live arena.
  • Beth Hart – A Tribute to Led Zeppelin. Anyone can cover Led Zeppelin. But to do it well, especially on a vocal level? Only few can. Ms Hart paying homage to one of the most influential bands of all time isn’t revelatory but she does every song on that album justice.
  • Lamb of God – Omens. Honestly, when Lamb of God are on form, there really is no touching them. Not straying from their own blueprint with no need to. This is simply more Lamb of God in the best possible way.
  • Monster Truck – Warriors. Riff rock really doesn’t get much better than Monster Truck. With their best album since their debut, the Canadians take no nonsense in their music and as a band that don’t deviate too much from their DNA, this is as close to their core as they’ve gotten. “Fuzz Mountain” is that song perfect for arenas and clubs alike with a massive chorus to marry those fuzz-tastic riffs.
  • Press Club – Endless Motion. I completely forgot about Press Club. After having adored their first album, I stumbled across this, album three (I didn’t even know a second existed!), their moody alt rock has only gotten better with time.
  • Jaret Ray Reddick – Just Woke Up. It may sound strange that the frontman of a pop punk band wrote a country album. But come on, he’s from Texas! Introspective with a good dollop of that trademark Reddick humour makes for another fun and incredibly enjoyable listen whilst also managing to move you.
  • Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here. Erik Grönwall is the singer which makes you stop wishing Skid Row and Sebastian Bach would kiss and make up. When Grönwall joined Skid Row, it was one of those announcements where you go: “Of course! That makes complete sense!” This album just proves it.
  • Slipknot – The End, So Far. Making up for the complete dogrel that was We Are Not Your Kind, this may not be the nine-piece’s best work as a complete album but there’s some great songs to be found in here that can stand toe-to-toe with anything found on the first three albums.
  • The Temperance Movement – Caught on Stage: Live and Acoustic. Released right at the top of the year, it shows how great this band was. The chemistry and energy on these performances, the songcraft, the dynamics. I really miss this band.
  • Ugly Kid Joe – Rad Wings of Destiny. Ugly Kid Joe aren’t a band I have on heavy rotation. I don’t even jump into their stuff before going to see them. But there’s just something about it which keeps making me go back to it. Its no-frills approach – imagine if AC/DC injected a bunch of punk across the ten tracks combined with grizzled age and a healthy dose of humour.

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EP of the Year

Again, not a surprise in the slightest. 2022 saw The Virginmarys release their first material as a two-piece after having debuted a bunch of it on their 2021 tour as well as at the start of the year before drip-feeding the songs to form The Devil Keeps Coming. Indeed, each of these songs saw Ally Dickaty and Danny Dolan at their most raw, continuing to fight against the ills of the world and society but also managing to find time to look inward. Rage bubbles within as their trademark sound continues to move forward whilst also trying their hand at a more traditional sound in other places. Meanwhile, they still know how to tug at the heartstrings with “Ever Closer”.

Top EPs (in alphabetical order):

  • Ivory Saints – Say My Name. The Glaswegian rockers made a mark opening for The Virginmarys in Glasgow in October whilst being drafted in at the last minute. Whilst the production may not be the best, the seven songs found on here present a band that shows promise.
  • Muscle Vest – Hot Hot Hate. This band continue to be one of my favourite finds. Full of noise and filth, the band show the cruel and dark humour of the human race within their music. Essentially, they hold up a mirror to humanity with a smile.
  • Krooked Tongue – No Vacancy Hotel. Moody, dark, a punk sneer, all tied up in an indie bow. Nothing more really needs to be said.

Best Live Shows (in chronological order):

  • IDLES – O2 Academy, Birmingham (22nd January). Seeing a band you’ve been desperate to for years with your mates the day after your birthday is what it’s all about. Living up to all the hype and then some, one of the most passionate performances I’ve ever seen.
  • The Hyena Kill – Satan’s Hollow, Manchester (24th February). Sadly I never got a chance to review this one but it was great to see Steven Dobb and Lorna Blundell back in action with their new line-up and new album which sounds immense in the live setting.
  • Halestorm – Barrowlands, Glasgow (7th March). As Halestorm did their first ever “Evening With” format, the band were at their best, making a triumphant return to the Barras, digging out all the old favourites and teasing a few new songs before the release of Back From the Dead.
  • Metz – Stereo, Glasgow (6th April). I’d been wanting to see Metz for a while now and in one of my favourite venues, these noise rockers didn’t disappoint. The noise the made on stage left my body vibrating until I was back upstairs and onto the dark streets of Glasgow.
  • Ghost – Hydro, Glasgow (13th April). Because it’s fucking Ghost. Seriously, though, as Cardinal Copia ascended to the Papacy in 2020, his return as Papa Emeritus IV was a welcome one. The bombast, the flamboyance, the spectacle and the sheer musicianship from this band is unrivalled, at least in this century. They continue to be unstoppable.
  • My Chemical Romance – MK Dons Stadium, Milton Keynes (22nd May). So I got talked into this one. My Chemical Romance passed me by first time around because I was burying myself in classic rock. After a couple of listens of The Black Parade, I was furious. Because it’s such a me album. And I missed it all these years. It was warm, my mate took ill and it took us four hours to get home. But it was worth it. My Chemical Romance may have been away but it seems like they’ve not missed a step.
  • Dirty Honey – Cathouse, Glasgow (12th June). I get chills thinking about this one. There’s so much to say about this gig but I’ll leave it with this – if ever there was an “I was there gig”, it was this one.
  • The Wonder Stuff – O2 Academy, Birmingham (24th June). Honestly, this is gig of the year. Another I got talked into. Whilst I was looking forward to it after listening to Never Loved Elvis (they were playing this in full) and delving into other great Wonder Stuff albums, nothing prepared me for this. By this time “The Size of a Cow” had finished, we knew this was up there.
  • Guns N’ Roses – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London (2nd July). Honestly, this has no business being on this list other than the redemption in it. After their dreadful 2017 show, I swore I was done but given I was in London for The Rolling Stones the day after, it would have been rude not to. Axl Rose was unwell and we lost a bunch of songs (honestly, who can say they’ve seen Guns N’ Roses play a full show which didn’t have “November Rain” in it?). However, it meant Rose had to dig deeper into his register and give the best vocal performance in about twenty years. Add in getting the chance to see Slash and Duff McKagan again and see them play “Slither” together was a dream come true.
  • The Rolling Stones – Hyde Park, London (3rd July). Honestly, if you’re going to see the Stones anywhere, it’s got to be here. Sure, it’s mired in marketing and branding now, but it doesn’t matter. The tribute to Charlie Watts as they took to the stage was nothing short of touching and now well into their sixth decade, they still deserve the title of the best rock and roll band in the world. Plus, Keith Richards is still the coolest guy on the planet.
  • Ugly Kid Joe/Massive Wagons – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton (11th November). Rock doesn’t get much more fun than a bill like this. In one of the country’s best venues, this was a great way to end this tour. Even the full review doesn’t do the show justice.
  • Clutch – O2 Academy, Birmingham (14th December). I saw Clutch in November in Newcastle and they were great. But this was on another level and possibly the best I’ve ever seen them.

Best New Band I Discovered:

Normally, this goes to a Glasgow band and some of those have went on to great things. Whilst I discovered a lot of great bands this year, the one I keep coming back to is Between Thorns. For a bunch of kids playing what was considered their first “real” gig as they opened for The Virginmarys in Manchester, they had depth, maturity and professionalism far beyond their years. Their recent single, “Can’t Let Go”, only further showcases that and in a few years, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.

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Best Thing That Happened:

So, in-between so many of those shows listed above, I saw The Virginmarys, a lot. I also saw Anchor Lane a lot. And I saw them together a lot. Picking any individual show for either of those bands would be impossible. As they both supported Ricky Warwick at the start of the year, each had headline shows before they teamed up for a UK tour with Anchor Lane supporting The Virginmarys to see out the year. So to see your two favourite bands together is something I’ll never take for granted. To see so many Virginmarys fans convert to Anchor Lane fans with the same level of love was a wonder. But more than that, to see both bands get along so well, to see the camaraderie and brotherhood that flourished throughout the year is something incredibly special.

Worst Thing That Happened:

This is usually where I just beat a dead horse and take one last kick at a bad album from this year. But I can’t think of any. I can’t think of any truly awful performances. Of course, there’s the myriad of deaths which happened this year. Taylor Hawkins, naturally being an obvious one. None of us saw that one coming. And whilst I’m not the biggest Foo Fighters fan, it still didn’t feel real.

Looking Forward to 2023:

  • Anchor Lane – Seeing their new album come out, listening to it and of course, witnessing their launch gig in Glasgow at the end of January.
  • Festivals – Last year, I name dropped three festivals. None of which I go to for various reasons. Now, that festival season had its first full year back and I missed out, I am choking for a festival.
  • Oli Brown and the Dead Collective – having teased the first song from what he’s been working on, I can’t wait to see what else Oli Brown has up his sleeve with his new band.
  • The return of Camden Rocks – this is a fingers crossed one. I’d love to be back at this one. Camden in the sun with beer, friends and music is something I’ve missed and would love to come back.
  • The return of The Answer – it’s so great to see these guys back. With a new album due next year and a tour to follow, I’m sure they’ll make their presence felt.
  • Finally seeing Bruce Springsteen again after 10 years since the one and only time I saw him.
  • Honestly, it’s one of those years that looks more blank than others but I’m sure this time, next year, there will be just as many highlights!

Overall view of the year:

Like every year, I’m basically repeating myself – the quality of music we get every year is nothing short of outstanding. When artists like Alter Bridge, Billy Idol, Korn, Thunder, Ozzy, Parkway Drive, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fozzy are putting out albums (in RHCP’s case, two in six months) and not making this list, it shows the underdogs are doing something right. None of the above are bad albums but everything else just happened to be better. As live music is well and truly back, albeit not quite to pre-pandemic levels, we faced adversity and overcame. And whatever else gets thrown our way, we’ll beat that too. Now, let’s get more good music in our ears.

Thanks:

We can’t not have the acceptance speech-style thanks. Unfortunately, I can’t afford Ricky Gervais for the opening monologue so let’s just pretend he called out a bunch of industry hypocrisy and some biting jokes. Until next year!

  • Mosh – Top of the list, as always. Putting the rest of us to shame with the amount of time he puts into the site, not just in creating content but the actual admin which goes into it.
  • All our PRs who send us the amazing releases, be it single, EP, album, cover, you name it. They let us get to all the shows, interview bands so that you can make your new discoveries!
  • You – Always last, never least. If it wasn’t for people reading this, we wouldn’t have a reason to do it. I’d still be an opinionated git but I’d look marginally more mental if I was just screaming my opinions into the void.
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