I’m not brilliant at remembering the year that has just passed. Sometimes, you want to forget more than you remember. Thankfully, in terms of hard rock and Heavy Metal, 2023 seems, on reflection, to be another fine year with plenty of impressive music and live events to cover for MetalTalk.
Having my own Facebook page helped me recollect some of the highlights, and there were many. I can work backwards, starting with the undoubted highlight of the year, Geddy Lee’s My Effin’ Life spoken word tour. Having stumped up a good amount of cash for row B seats at Portsmouth Guildhall, to see Alex Lifeson join Lee on stage for the whole evening was just magical.
You will often find me at The Patriot – Home of Rock in Crumlin, South Wales, where the venue’s reputation is well deserved. You won’t find a friendlier welcome at any rock club in the UK, and in 2023, the owner Angela Draycott pulled in some top acts.
November saw two Iron Maiden legends play there, with the return of Blaze Bayley and Wolfsbane and then two sold-out nights for Paul Di’Anno. Three wild and crazy evenings with plenty to enjoy.
It was the same all year, with early shows from Trucker Diablo and Raven through to the crazy sets by Empyre, Chris Holmes, Florence Black and Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons all adding to the ever-increasing reputation of this amazing place.
I like an eclectic mix of music. US stoners Sasquatch, supported by the excellent Blind River, provided a totally different evening to the pulverising four-band lineup when Fear Factory rolled into SWX in Bristol, whilst retro Metallers Tailgunner proved that the hype is real with a storming headline set at Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff.
A rare trip to KK’s Steel Mill in October saw a fine night of Thrash headlined by German legends Destruction and another band ticked off the list.
You couldn’t get much further away from Teutonic Thrash than Hawkwind, but their headline show at the Royal Albert Hall, supported by the evergreen Arthur Brown, was equally enjoyable. To be able to photograph in such amazing surroundings was fantastic despite my harness snapping and one of my cameras bouncing off the floor just as Hawkwind took the stage!
Plenty of festivals to cover for MetalTalk in 2023, ranging from the small independent Station 18 in Swansea to the last-minute opportunity to shoot at Bloodstock Open Air. Add in Steelhouse and Stonedead, and it was a busy summer of shows.
Throw in a few outdoor events, such as the brilliant Cardinal Black headlining Chepstow Castle, and you suddenly remember you were quite busy.
Musically, the releases have flooded in from the start of the year and haven’t ever stopped. Obituary, Ahab, and Those Damn Crows provided a diverse range of early music to listen to, whilst Overkill, Soen, Riverside, Primordial, Cirith Ungol and Green Lung all released phenomenal records. In fact, there are just too many to list.
I also got to interview a few of the great and the good. Everyone who took the time to speak to me was really kind and engaged. Shane Greenhall from Those Damn Crows, Bruce Soord, Becky Baldwin, Oli Brown, and Karl Willets all proved to be great interviewees.
I’m sure I’ve missed many great gigs and albums, as well as a few highlights from my interviews. But I have them all stored so I can look back at a great year.
And with MetalTalk going from strength to strength, 2024 promises to be just as exciting. See you on the other side.