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LIVE CONCERTS - The Year In Review (Part 2)

Written by: Mark McQueen

A look at the best live sets of 2022

Through the eyes of

The Beard


Little Johnny

In 2022 the concert circuit really came back full scale. There were shows aplenty and metal (of all types) to be seen and listened to. Your author Mark McQueen aka “The Beard” along with his sidekick, the irrepressible, “Little Johnny” got to see and review 49 shows and 218 live sets of music this year. Over the next four weeks, we will share with you our top 20% of all these live sets. You can peruse our guidelines and disclaimers in part one of this series, and be sure to stick with The Mighty Decibel for all your Metal reviews.

Without further delay, we present part two of this series, numbers #33-23 from The Beard:

#33 Zombi from September 15th at Thalia Hall Chicago 87.7/100

Although admittedly I was at this show because of the headliner, this two-piece duo stole the night with their hypnotic haunting set of ethereal metal. Playing under mostly blue and purple lights and fog, Zombi used their “looping” technology to form spiderwebs of music that were almost crystalline in nature. Their show was like snowflakes of metal, songs each similar, yet distinctly different at the same time. A band I look forward to seeing a second time.

#32 Orodruin from June 24th at Maryland Doomfest 88/100

If these gentlemen passed you on the street, you would never think “That’s a band”, but once they started sound checking and guitarist John Gallo riffs a spot-on perfect Iommi deep cut solo, I suspected these guys could deliver the goods. (Nod to Judas Priest). Orodruins set was high energy doom which is to say it kept the doom metal pacing, but in watching, you could see the energy pouring off these guys as they took us all on a great 40-minute journey. A 2022 Maryland Doomfest corker and well worthy of inclusion on this year’s best-of list.

#31 Monolord from August 22 at Psychofest Las Vegas 88.1/100

This was a definite case of horrible “slotting”. Monolord played a great set, but was following the first reunion of Mercyful Fate in 20-years. To misquote John McEnroe “YOU CANNOT FOLLOW KING DIAMOND!” Seriously though, Monolord gave a performance that following almost anybody else, would have been great and was still very good. Then, adding injury to insult, they had to cancel their tour just a couple days later due to illness. This bad luck slotting at the fest kept them from a likely top 20 spot. Still, they are rewarded by being on the list.

#30 Beelzebong from August 19 at Psychofest Las Vegas 88.2/100

There’s Stoner Rock and then there’s bands like Beelzebong. These guys are the embodiment of Charles Schultz’s classic Peanuts character Pigpen, except instead of a dirt cloud, these dudes have a “green sweet-smelling cloud” always wrapped around them. Dipping deeply into the Electric Wizard world of song making, Beelzebong were less “evil” and just more straight stoned riffing for 45 minutes. After seeing them I seriously wanted a Scooby Snack or at minimum some Fritos.

#29 The Greg Koch Trio from July 8th at Summerfest Milwaukee 88.5/100

This was one I never saw coming. The Beard stumbled into this stage while killing time at Summerfest waiting for The Black Crowes set. Half listening to these guys in the background, I was thinking “man that guitar player is pretty good.” As I wandered closer for the next song, he started into and played a combination of the Zeppelin solos from “Achilles Last Stand”, “Whole Lotta Love”, and “Dazed and Confused”. These were done as one long medley, and to link one to the other he used the theme from Pulp Fiction. This amazing piece of playing took the band about a half hour to complete, and not only the guitarist, but the drummer (who was his son) made it sound like I was hearing Page and Bonham going at it. I just watched, mouth agape while my ears tried to accept that these guys were this good. Definitely a lightning-strikes moment and one of the best single pieces of music I heard all year.

#28 Emperor from August 19 at Psychofest Las Vegas 88.8/100

Psychofest night two headliners, the legendary Emperor finally made America and played the most technical black metal show of the year. Although honestly, I only have one Emperor album, (I know, it’s almost sacrilege), I still enjoyed watching both the huge light show and the rabid crowd (many of them finally seeing their dream black metal band playing live). For many, this set may be a top 10 of the year (if not ever), but my unfamiliarity with the Emperor catalog did keep the total grade grounded (although still a definite year-end ranked set).

#27 Testament from October 4th at The Rave in Milwaukee 89.0

Testament is a perennial opening act on many major tours. Of the seven times I have seen them, six have been in the one, or two band slot. Getting the chance to see them carry the ball as the headliner was a treat and they did not disappoint. From opening number to closing encore, Testament was power thrash (Ed. Did you just create a new sub-genre?!). All killer, no filler and they produced a top five PIT of the year. It looked like a scene from Braveheart out there on the floor. They may like the cheques from being the smaller fish on the major tours, but this set proved they can handle top billing just fine as well.

#26 Sylvaine from April 19th at The Forge Joliet Illinois & 9/19 Bottom Lounge in Chicago Illinois 89.5/100

Norwegian artist Sylvaine caught me by surprise in April, but was every damn bit as good when I knew what was coming in September. This woman looks like a cover girl from Cosmopolitan magazine. A tall ethereal blonde with a voice like a Grimm’s fairy tale milkmaid. Songs are about the woods, the rivers, and the balance of nature. AND THEN SHE STARTS SINGING DEATH METAL THAT RIPS YOUR HEAD OFF!!! The first time I was like “what the Fuck was that?” By end of the April set, I was digging it. In September, I knew it was coming and my conclusion is not only does that style NOT detract from the whole, it actually enhances it. This woman allows Nature to be both beautiful AND terrible (fierce). Often in the same piece of music. Great set(s).

#25 Old Blood from March 20 at Reggie’s, Chicago 89.5/100

Several years earlier I had seen the beginning incarnation of Old Blood, with their heavily made-up and hula hoop twirling singer and thought to myself “Cool music. What’s with the circus act?” Well, this version had the same music, except a bit heavier, and had replaced that singer with a lithe, svelte woman calling herself Lynx. I was lucky enough to talk with her a bit before the show and we hit it off immediately. THIS was the music Old Blood was meant to play. Throughout the set the energy was palpable and at times almost sexual as Lynx purred, crooned, and growled through the songs while the guitar player showed the stage was NOT the limits of his domain, as he walked around jamming throughout the entire club. This was a quality set and worthy of the list.

#24 Boris from August 20th, at Psychofest Las Vegas 90/100

Boris is a metal chameleon. I’ve witnessed them do a 45-minute straight punk metal set. I once watched them turn up the amplifiers and just allow feedback to take over the stage for over 10-minutes without playing a note. I’ve seen them go doom. I’ve seen them go psychedelic. You just never quite know what these Japanese rockers are going to hand out. Well, this night under a pink clouded stage, they went metal with touches of everything. Takeshi remains one of the most versatile guitar players over the last 30-years, playing every style of Metal and doing each well. The entire set I still didn’t know what to expect next and that is always a plus when you’ve seen a band that many times.

#23 Paradise Lost from August 21st at Psychofest Las Vegas 90.3/100

My first time seeing these gothic metal rockers despite their 30+ year career. Heavy, but surprisingly clean powerful vocals, (although they could death it up on some numbers when they had a mind to). They also had some of the best dry sardonic onstage wit of any act all year. For a first time Paradise Lost viewer, clearly, they made quite an impression landing in the top 25 of the entire year.

Well, we are halfway through the best of live sets list for 2022. Read on for Little Johnny’s list and be sure to tune in next week for part three bands 23-12.

Little Johnny’s

Top Sets of 2022

Part II

Bands 33-23

Let’s get to it!