Thursday, January 5, 2023

Tom's Töp 10 Concerts of 2022

2020 seems like a long time ago, with the world coming apart at the seams and one of the few things we tend to take for granted is our ability to do what we want with our free time, one of those magical things is being able to go to a concert with like-minded individuals and experience music live. This immersive experience which I missed from March of 2020 through the fall 2021 edition of Decibel's Metal Beer Fest was a long time, something sorely missed, as my closest connection to live music was sharing memories with friends via late Friday night Zoom conferences conducted through March of 2020 and every week thereafter until this recent Maryland Deathfest, where the aptly named Heavy Metal Happy Hour got to be an in-person event as it was eventually intended to be.

All told I attended 16 concerts spanning 19 days in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and even local shows here in New Jersey. It was excellent being able to see so many familiar and new faces out and about in my travels, many thanks to those of you who accompanied me there. Here is to more of that in 2023. For now here are the honorable mention shows:

Boris/Nothing; Webster Hall, New York, NY September 1st

Deadguy/School Drugs/Honey; Crossroads, Garwood NJ March 5th

Exhumed/Vitriol/Escuela Grind/Castrator; The Meadows, Brooklyn, NY November 27th

Turnstile/Citizen/Ceremony/Ekulu/Truth Cult; The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA May 24th

Napalm Death/Brujeria/Frozen Soul/MDC; Music Hall of Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn NY October 28th

Mayhem/Midnight; Irving Plaza, New York NY March 27th

10. Eyehategod/Come To Grief/Bat/Escuela Grind; Saint Vitus, Brooklyn NY,  May 4th

Originally covered here this was my first trip to Saint Vitus post-Covid and it was a sorely needed one. An odd show with bands either flying in your face like Escuela Grind and Bat or sludge titans Come To Grief and Eyehategod moving at glacial speeds; this show had it all. Escuela Grind as the openers had more time to let loose in the above Exhumed show, but this time around they more than proved their worth as well and became one of the most talked about bands in metal during 2022. Bat, being one of the side projects of Ryan Waste (of Municipal Waste) is a great callback to the evil speed metal that reigned supreme in the '80s and the rest of the show featured Come to Grief who I had yet to see and EHG who I hadn't seen in nearly 10 years. A combination of styles that was tough to top in one of the premiere live environments in the tri-state area.


9. Immolation/Demolition Hammer/Mortician/Black Anvil/Funeral Leech; Irving Plaza, New York, NY March 19th

My first show back in NYC after a more than 2 year hiatus was one to be enjoyed with a group of friends who made a night out of it. I have seen Immolation countless times, but Demolition Hammer were still on the ol' bucket list. Both bands crushed their sets, but honestly the top heaviness of this concert kept it from being higher on this list. Demolition Hammer cleared the room with their classic tracks from both Tortured Existence and Epidemic of Violence praising the New York scene that raised them as well as Mortician and Immolation with a whole horde of fans behind them on this, their last show of the tour. Immolation heavily featured their new Acts of God which was brand new at the time and tracks like "Father, You're Not a Father" are meant to be experienced live. My full report is here.

8. Hulder/Spectral Wound/Manat; Brooklyn Made, Brooklyn, NY April 14th
A black cloud descended upon one of the newest venues in New York after a beautiful day; Bushwick’s Brooklyn Made is a beautiful little spot on Troutman, a venue that serves as a good balance between the crowd sizes of Saint Vitus and Irving Plaza, highly recommended for an excellent live experience. Opening the night were local self-proclaimed “early Sepultura worshipping” Manat. Their sound was grimy from the outset and their lead singer spent the first few songs doing what looked like looking for a contact lens, before thrusting themselves into the crowd and tossing around the microphone like it owed them money, pausing only briefly to steal a sip of a concert goers’ adult beverage of choice. This was a solid opening for what was to come later and helped the crowd get some of that early energy working.

Up next were Quebeckers, Spectral Wound riding high on 2021’s excellent A Diabolic Thirst which they played almost in its entirety plus “Woods from Which The Spirits Once So Loudly Howled” and “Black Satanic Glamour” off of their previous Infernal Decadence LP. Begloved front man, Jonah sounded otherworldly while his guitar section backed by crashing drums set up an atmosphere that matched the fog within the venue perfectly. Their 50 minute or so set was a triumphant display of black metal taking over such a wide-open space and making it work to their advantage, seeing as some of the City’s venues don’t have quite the same space orientation as Brooklyn Made does. The crowd got behind them as they made an indelible mark in Bushwick’s extreme metal playground.

Hulder was up next to close things out and she and her live band played heavily into the enigmatic nature of her folk black metal approach. Her make-up was on point as was her guitar playing and vocals, sounding just as fresh as last year’s excellent Godlastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry did in studio. The LP was prominently played as well as inclusions from their Ascending the Raven Stone and Embraced By Darkness and Mysts EP. The wondrously dark environment became Hulder’s playground throughout, as her corpse paint gave the feeling of grimness and sadness all the same. An excellent performance by one of black metal’s up and coming bands.


7. Undeath/200 Stab Wounds/Enforced/Phobophilic; Saint Vitus, Brooklyn, NY November 13th

This massive tour is a perfect amalgamation of up and coming death metal from both 2021 and 2022, a tour on paper that could not be missed. The show that I attended sold out and the following night they all played Vitus again. I started the night at Greenpoint Brewing Company with some friends and walked the block over to Saint Vitus to talk tour things with Josh from Phobophilic on the main floor because Alex from Undeath was holding court in the subterranean chamber of one of NYC's best venues. 

Each band crushed their respective set and poked fun at the insane temperatures inside the venue causing all of Undeath to remove their shirts and apologize for doing so. Enforced brought the crossover energy and 200 Stab Wounds brought vile lyrics to the already gross stage. Tours like this don't come around often enough for the up and comers, but for those lucky enough to attend, it was well worth the price of admission.


6. Sumerlands/Eternal Champion/Daeva/Tower; Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA November 4th

Making a trip down the Turnpike for the third time this year felt appropriate given the lineup and quite possibly my favorite concert poster of the year to boot. After dining at the great La Chinesca adjacent, I entered the former Spaghetti Warehouse now named Union Transfer. This beautiful venue is smaller in size than The Fillmore but it can more than hold its own as a mid sized concert hall. Tower from all the way back in NYC powered through cuts from one of my 2021 favorite records, Shock To The System before giving way to black thrashing hometown boys, Daeva. 

It was record release night for them as well as fellow Philly band Sumerlands, a band that features producer extraordinaire Arthur Rizk fresh off their first album in 6 years. Daeva's collective set was crushing and vibrantly evil, a set that was also enjoyed by transplanted Georgian John Dyer Baizley of Baroness who was a super nice guy to boot. Eternal Champion's Jason Tarpey entered the fray in a chain mail mask before the hulking figure removed it and finished out the set flexing with and not on the fellow dorks in attendance. Sumerlands, now featuring former Magic Circle front man Brendan Radigan went off playing cuts from both albums, reminding the fans what they came there for, a night of heavy metal bliss. 

5. Ghost/Mastodon/Spiritbox; UBS Arena, Elmont, NY September 10th

Being a fan of the New York Islanders has not always been easy for me, but it took a massive change of scenery and a band I had yet to see in Ghost and I had plenty of reason to trek out there before the puck dropped on the new season. My wife, a friend and I drove out to Long Island to finally see what the pageantry was all about. The beautiful arena and some nice club seating helped to get us all settled in for a rocking night in a large venue.

Having seen Mastodon at a myriad of smaller venues like Music Hall of Williamsburg and even on their co-headlining Adult Swim tour with Dethklok at Hammerstein Ballroom or with Kvelertak and Gojira at Sayreville, NJ's Starland Ballroom, but for now it was time to see them reach a North American pinnacle, an arena date. They played well but the energy was different, a fun varied set was nice, but the band do much better up close, still great to see them play to the big crowds. 

Ghost were on a different level however: Iron Maiden styled large set pieces, explosions and gaudy outfits highlighted a band that has carved a wonderful niche for themselves in heavy music and rock in general. Being that Impera was my favorite album of 2022 this was one of the ways in which that placement was solidified, a great set showcased enough material from their entire career and a live show that simply cannot be missed.

4. Municipal Waste/Integrity/Bewitcher; Crossroads, Garwood, NJ June 19th

Being able to see a metal show in my own neighborhood here in the NJ suburbs is a unique thing. Couple that with it being on Father's Day with 3 powerful bands and I was there in a flash. Fresh off of the Metal and Beer Fest in Philly the weekend before, I was adorned in the beer, zombie and Philadelphia inspired Cannibal Corpse shirt from said fest and of course ran into some other folks who had also been there. Starting with an outdoor beer, we soon made our way inside to catch some PNW action from Bewticher who crushed the small stage with blackened heavy metal fury.

Next up was Dwid Hellion and Integrity who to that point hadn't played NYC in a very long time, so playing NJ should have attracted enough attention in and of itself. The hardcore superstars laid waste to a crowd that was ripe for the picking and drawing plenty of mayhem to the standing-room only floor. Closing things out were Municipal Waste who were waiting on the release of their newest record, Electrified Brain which made for an honorable mention in 2022, but the songs were so fresh on this tour and so too was the band, not just with their mouths either as Tony Forresta chided the decidedly NJ crowd at every chance he possibly could. Necks were destroyed during their own excellent setlist and the evening was alive and well, well-earned for this father.

3. Mercyful Fate/Kreator/Midnight; Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, NY November 10th

This was my second time at this picturesque Flatbush venue, the last time for a King Diamond show back in 2019, so naturally King brought the wife and I back this time as well. Having seen Midnight earlier this year for a longer set with Mayhem was fun, but the somewhat unsuspecting crowd at the show got treated to a maelstrom of energy, a go-go dancer and satanic power from another band that made it big in 2022. 

Next up was Kreator, the 2nd classic Teutonic band I had seen this year including Destruction at MDF, playing plenty off of their new Hate Uber Alles album complete with bodies being hung in the backdrop on the curtain, promising to bring a headlining tour to the US in the new year while waving the Flag of Hate high. Mercyful Fate crushed a set consisting of the biggest and best of the band's first two albums Melissa and Don't Beak The Oath as well as new track "The King of Salzburg". It was incredible to finally seen Hank Sherman rip it live, albeit without Michael Denner but Bjarne Holm did an excellent job here as did Becky Baldwin who was filling in for Joey Vera on bass who was on tour with Armored Saint at the time. Hopefully we see more from Fate before long, because that was a rejuvenated band if I had ever seen one.


2. Decibel Metal and Beer Fest, The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA June 10th-11th

The last two shows here are both fests, which might seem like a little bit of a cop out, but these required a full body's worth to truly experience. This two-night extravaganza was only 2 weeks after MDF which already had people reeling but being able to boast full album sets from Candlemass, Nuclear Assault, Wolves In The Throne Room plus Cannibal Corpse, Voivod, Full of Hell and newcomers The Silver it was more than enough to get my time's worth. 

Getting to connect with the Philly faithful as well as media friends and band members makes it all worth it too. All the above-mentioned bands were favorites with Candlemass and Cannibal Corpse as closers making for the exact kind of punch to the gut, we were all in search of during a time where shows simply didn't exist. Kudos to my friend who let me crash on the couch and enjoy beers and late-night fried chicken with, plus a trip the pier the next day where I ran into a guy who I thought had actually died in the pit the night previously. Hooray for vitality!


1. Maryland Death Fest XVIII, Edison Lot/Rams Head/Powerplant Live/Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore MD May 26th-29th

This was the weekend that I had waited for, nearly three years, one that was the focal point of many Zoom calls where new friendships were cultivated and due to that the (formerly) annual event made for even more of a familial setting than it had ever been before. I elected to do the last three days of the fest due to work commitments, but my arrival brought me feelings of joy when finally able to sit down in person with these virtual talking heads and to remind each and every one of them how special we are to each other. 

Friday night I made it to Rams Head Live as well as the outdoor stage there which they called Power Plant Live featuring a relocated Carcass as well as Vio-Lence and Obituary before ambling my way to Baltimore Soundstage to take in the insanity that was Ghoul, complete with masks and blood. 

Saturday morning was the start of my gazebo breakfast that saw a particular NJ breakfast meat, plus plenty of bagels, coffee and libations provided by what is essentially extended family. Plus a run to Max's Taphouse where many drinks were also shared. Bands seen included Coroner, Autopsy, Cavalera, Triptykon, Necrophobic, and Impaled making for a gnarly end to the night. 

Sunday marked the last day of the fest and a relatively subdued start to the day which mostly consisted of conversation and leftovers from the previous morning's festivities. The trek of bands included Nocturnus AD, Blood Incantation, Demilich, Destruction, Immolation, Triumph of Death, Hypocrisy, Deicide, Gravesend, Birdflesh complete with glow sticks, sex dolls and rubber sharks! 


So there you have it a year full of concerts in 2022. I know there is nothing all that grandiose planned for 2023, however I plan to see many of my friends out on this proverbial battlefield sooner rather than later.


- Tom

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