A year in summation: 2019

So, Only Death Is Real has witnessed the first year-end, and it is time to jot down some thoughts as summary for 2019 and a plan of action of sorts for 2020.

The site was created in mid-May, and since then we have published a total of 49 texts. It is quite appropriate that this is the 50th entry on the site! Most of these have been reviews (39); we published two interviews in 2019, a couple of columns and a few track highlights. An obvious goal for 2020 will be to increase the amount of interviews, but also break from the simplistic Q&A-mould of the so far published interviews. Apart from that: continue with the reviews, because they’re fun to write. I’ve also some other plans for the site, but we’ll see as we go along…

Album-wise, 2019 wasn’t the best of years, but neither was it the worst. The year was dominated by neofolk acts. Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio released the absolute album of the year with Let’s Play (Two Girls & A Goat), but the teaser EP Ménage À Quatre was also a highlight – and their split EP with Trepaneringsritualen was my favourite 7″ release of the year. And their concert at the Waves Of Darkness On The Baltic Sea cruise was without doubt the most memorable gig of the year, if not necessarily the best. But more about that later; the point presently is, that 2019 was thoroughly dominated by ORE!

How has this not been censored yet by the guardians of moral correctness?

Another absolute highlight of the year was Rome’s stunning Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro, one of three (!!!) full-length album releases by the prolific Luxembourgian neofolk act this year, as well as a deluxe double vinyl re-release of their classic Flowers From Exile album on its 10th anniversary.

For a site centered on (death) metal, very little metal made our best of the year list, though metal acts like Annihilatus and Warmoon Lord, both from Finland, released noteworthy albums this year. The legendary Mayhem from Norway also released their best album in years and years with Daemon, but its pastiche nature made us question what it speaks of Mayhem’s relevance in this day and age. Regardless of current relevance, the reissue of their classic Wolf’s Lair Abyss mini-album was another re-release highlight of the year, as was the long-overdue reissue of Incantation’s Upon The Throne Of Apocalypse.

On the live front, as on the album front, neofolk and martial industrial ruled the year. I managed to witness Italian Spiritual Front twice this year, first in Helsinki and later on the aforementioned Waves Of Darkness On The Baltic Sea cruise. Both were stellar performances, and Simone Salvatori is one of the most charismatic front men in rock music right now.

Featuring Keanu Reeves on drums…

Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio’s set from the same cruise (sadly, I missed their gig in Tampere…) was memorable. The boat was caught in a veritable storm, and the going was rough: the boat rocked in the waves, and both people and equipment flew all over the place, and apparently the stage crew had to tape instruments, monitors and microphones to the stage with liberal amounts of duct tape! Still, the circumstances affected the gig and especially the drummer was out of time for the whole set (I suspect monitor problems!) and Tomas Petterson of ORE had a hard time not flying off his feet on the stage which rocked wildly. Far from a perfect concert, but definitely one I will remember!

The very same cruise also featured a great Flowers From Exile -centered set by Rome, as well as fine sets by neofolk stalwarts Darkwood and Of The Wand And The Moon, as well as numerous others. The finest set heard during the two-day cruise was, undoubtedly, by German martial industrial act Triarii, who were simply transcendent in their atmospheric excellence.

Again, very little metal in our live highlights of the year for a primarily metal publication, but that’s the way it goes! Our list is not totally void of metal, though: Tuska 2019 featured a couple of blistering thrash metal sets, first by Power Trip who truly tore the tent down, and as Saturday’s headliner, Slayer showed everyone one last time how it’s supposed to be done. There was a pleasant symmetry there, Slayer dominating for one last time during their farewell tour, and Power Trip showing the torch is in good hands.

What else remains to say? Apart from the already mentioned albums, the year saw plenty of decent but rather few stunning, particularly memorable releases. Missing Helsinki Deathfest sucked, but I admit I’m a lazy concertgoer, and two festivals lasting more than one day is more than enough for middle-aged me. Maybe in 2020.

So, anyways, here’s to a fruitful 2020. May your bones rot, and remember: only death is real.

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