It’s been a while since we did one of these. In fact, looks like in all of Only Death Is Real’s history, we’ve only done one year round-up. High time for a second one, don’t you think? So, here are some highlights of last year.
On the whole, as years go, I guess you could say it was a pretty shitty one. Russia began a new phase of unprovoked aggression in their vile war on Ukraine, which started way back in 2014. The uniformity of the strong European reactions against Russia came as a slight surprise to us – we were expecting more spineless dissent and “understanding” of Russia. One of the tangible results of this was Old Captain’s impressive 2 CD compilation Unio Solidarium, bursting with both known and unknown artists from the post-industrial underground displaying solidarity with Ukraine. And with plenty of exclusive material, too. Definitely a highlight of the musical year for us, even if the reason for the compilation is deplorable to say the least.
Our favourite album of the year was quite clearly Current 93’s If A City Is Set Upon A Hill (review) – incidentally it was also our most read post of the year, by far. The second most read review, Pressure 28’s Stand Your Ground (review) was read several hundred times less. But, I digress: If A City Is Set Upon A Hill is a brilliant album of dreamy, melancholic psychedelic weirdness like only David Tibet & Co. can do it. Definitely a well-earned top spot on our best of the year list.
If the first place was easy, then the following are considerably tougher. 2022 saw a whole lot of good releases, but it’s hard to put them in order. Without a doubt, TourdeForce’s EP of Death In June covers, Six In The Key Of Death (review), impressed the shit out of us with the power of Fields Of Rape alone. Certainly we like it more than Death In June’s new CD Nada-ized and its retrosynth-styled versions of previously released tracks.
Sticking to the post-industrial/neofolk context, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio’s two new releases of the year, the EP Fleur Du Mal (review) and the album Nihilist Notes (review), saw a return to a slightly older sound for the Swedish act. With a more militant, martial sound, the EP and album represent a bleaker nihilism than the erotic decadence of the several preceding albums. Whilst Let’s Play remains our favourite ORE-album, the change of gears works well.
Finnish Tervahäät’s Virtus (review) also deserves a mention whilst we’re on the topic of neofolk and post-industrial. A multifaceted and versatile album, simply calling it neofolk is an oversimplification, but I suppose that’s the larger context of the album. At any rate, it is ample proof of why the bands related to the Anima Arctica label are worth paying attention to – and a brilliant album in its own right.
Truth be told, there were few highlights in 2022 as far as metal goes. Unfyros’ Alpha Hunt (review) was one of them as well as Vermilia’s Kätkyt (review) – two very different takes on what Finnish black metal means in 2022, both strong in their own way. We also want to give special mention to Turkish Paramilitant, who with their debut demo Emetic Spear Of Intolerance (review) set the bar very high: bestial black metal fans take note.
The year in oi! and punk saw a couple of nice releases, the strongest of which was Laki & Järjestys’ debut album Uusi aika (review) – slightly less brickwall than the earlier 7″, it is nonetheless a killer album. We give out a honorary mention to fellow countrymen Hats & Caps and their debut album Going Nowhere (review) – it was released in 2021, but so late in the year that it didn’t have time to make many “best of 2021”-lists. So let’s give the album a much deserved mention here.
As far as re-releases and box sets go, two in particular were memorable. Svart Records‘ The Coffinshakers anthology The Curse Of The Coffinshakers (review) made some absolutely essential but quite hard to find material available again. Whilst the vinyl box was a neat addition to our collection, ultimately we almost liked the CD version more; it’s snappier and more convenient. In keeping both versions pretty basic, Svart has been able to keep the prices reasonable, providing great value for money in either. So if country and/or Hammer Horror is your thing – check it out.
Lipposen Levy ja Kasetti, the label of Finland’s biggest record store chain Levykauppa Äx, put out a re-release of Finnish Cryhavoc’s debut album Sweetbriers (review). Maybe most famous for the nekkid ladies on the cover, I don’t know how much demand there was for this – the album isn’t exactly a lost classic or anything. But it was our chance to rediscover the album, and in refreshing our memories, discover that it is a very good exponent of what Finnish metal was in the late 90’s. So hey, at least one appreciative customer.
And there you have it, the year in summation. As far as gigs go, 2022 was still a bit of a lost year. COVID-19 lockdowns were in effect during most of the spring, and we must admit we’ve become so lazy during the past few years, that dragging our royal asses to gigs has become too enormus of a task. Well, Spiritual Front in On The Rocks, Helsinki was a nice evening: first a set of The Smiths/Morrisey covers, and then another of the Italian masters’ own material.
Looking forward to 2023, as far as we know there aren’t any particularly interesting albums we’re expecting. But that’s never been a reliable indication of what the year will provide. And anyhow, we’ve still got a hefty backlog of 2022 releases to wade through: the aforementioned new Death In June CD being one of them. So, who knows? Maybe we need to write an addendum to this summary at some point.