(Andy Synn kicks off his annual “List Week” a few days early)
Let me make one thing clear – what you’re about to read is in no way a “definitive” list of the “best” EPs of 2022.
Rather it’s just a round-up of all the various short-form releases – EPs, splits, and even the occasional “album” which I felt wasn’t quite LP sized when all was said and done – that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to over the last twelve months.
That’s something to bear in mind when you read all of my articles over the next week… there’s no such thing as a “definitive” or “exhaustive” list, not even here at NCS where we do our best to cover everything we can. There’s simply too much music released every year for any site, let alone any individual writer, to cover all of it.
Still, I’ve tried my best (even though, I have to admit, I didn’t write about anywhere near as many EPs as I actually listened to this year) and I hope you all enjoy the following collection of recommendations, including my personal favourites of the year.
This year saw the release of some short-but-sweet “come-back” releases from well-known names like Bleeding Through, Despised Icon, and Earth Crisis alongside extremely promising debuts from brand-new names such as Crown of Madness, Grief Ritual, Iron Tomb, and Wretchgod.
2022 also featured a bevy of outstanding split-releases from the like of Eggs of Gomorrh/Weregoat (the former of which you’ll be hearing more about next week), Malthusian/Suffering Hour, Tchornobog/Abyssal (where the Abyssal side was, in my opinion, particularly potent), and Terminal Nation/Kruelty (which was very near to making my Top Ten list).
Bands like Abysmal Dawn, Deformatory, and Eskhaton continued to prove their mastery of the Death Metal arts in all their brutal, technical glory, as did more Tech/Deathcore oriented acts like The Seraphim Veil (whose new EP was another release which narrowly missed out on making my top ten) and Labyrinth of Stars (which, while billed as an album in certain places, definitely seems more like an EP to me – though feel free to argue otherwise).
And, of course, whether you agree with it or not (and I happen to think that some of it was a little overblown) there was also a lot of hype around new short-form releases from Worm, Resin Tomb, and Void Rot – all of which you should check out at your earliest convenience (especially Unconsecrated//Ascendancy).
The more “blackened” end of the spectrum also had its fair share of killer cuts, from bigger and more notorious names like Blut Aus Nord and Svart Crown (whose latest slab of Blackened Death Metal brilliance will, sadly, be their last) to lesser-known underground icons such as Fiat Nox, Trivax, and long-time NCS-favourites The Howling Wind, as well as relatively fresh faces like Houle and Peasant.
And then there was the more progressive/unorthodox/avant-garde side of the Black Metal sphere, which deserves its own paragraph entirely, with particular emphasis on angular, abrasive, and atmosphere-heavy releases from the likes of Decoherence, Jouissance Morbide, Qrixkuor (yes, I’ll accept arguments that this one leans a bit more towards Death Metal than the others featured here), and Rejoice! The Light Has Come (which came this close to cracking my Top Ten) all providing their own uniquely twisted take on the genre’s core tenets.
Finally, there were the entries that don’t necessarily fit under our usual Black and/or Death Metal focussed remit, but which deserve their time to shine all the same, including Hardcore heavy-hitters like Sharptooth (which I wish I’d had time to write more about), Great American Ghost, and Ancst (though the latter’s EP is basically just pure Black Metal, rather than Blackened Hardcore, this time around), ear-gouging Grind-mongers and nihilistic noise-bringers such as Fawn Limbs, Full of Hell, and Primitive Man, and more melodically-inclined fare like Grift‘s latest piece of acoustic artistry, Massen‘s increasingly progressive protest-Metal, and the shimmering, emotional soundscapes of Sundrowned.
And if none of those tickled your fancy… well, here’s my own personal top ten which will hopefully change that!
HONOURABLE MENTION: WINDS OF LENG – MORBID ENTITIES
I’m bending the rules a little bit here, but with good reason, as I’ve been waiting for something new from Winds of Leng for what seems like forever… and Morbid Entities does not disappoint.
Comprising four prime cuts of powerful Blackened Death Metal – no fat, no gristle, just a perfect mix of muscle and melody – it reaffirms the band’s status as one of the underground’s most unheralded acts (and, in essence, the USA’s answer to the epic extremity of Sulphur Aeon).
If it had come out earlier in the year then, obviously, there’s a very good chance this EP would have been much higher in my list, but for now please enjoy this last-minute addition from a band who deserve a much higher profile than they currently have (and hopefully mentioning them here will go some way towards helping with that).
10. EUPHROSYNE – KERES
This was a late addition to my list, but what a way to make a first impression!
Despite only discovering Euphrosyne when we hosted a premiere of this EP last month I have no problem declaring it to be one of my favourite short-form releases of the year, as I honestly cannot stop listening to it.
It’s as if someone managed to fuse together two of my all-time favourite albums, Agrypnie‘s 16 and Sinistro‘s Sangue Cassia into one stupendous, seven-track release, marrying the blackened bite and electrifying energy of the former with the doomy grandeur and gloomy atmosphere of the latter while also adding a more progressive and Post-Metal-adjacent sense of dynamic.
It’s a fantastic piece of work, through and through, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
09. CARONTE – CIRCLE
Despite not being the biggest fan of the more traditionally Satanic/Stoner side of Doom (though there are certainly exceptions to this rule) I’ve been an ardent follower of Italy’s Caronte ever since I stumbled across their instantly-arresting performance at the 2019 edition of Inferno Festival, and we’ve written about them here at NCS ever since.
So it should be no surprise, really, to see them mentioned again here with their latest EP, Circle, which brings together four tracks – each individually released as a “single” prior to this – that represent the band at their very best, with all the bold, bombastic riffs, eerily infectious melodies, and unmistakably charismatic clean vocals we’ve come to expect from them, aided and abetted by (at various points) both a heavier, even darker-edged approach and even some lurid, almost Post-Punk elements, which together make for yet another enticing elixir that you’ll want to have another taste of almost immediately.
08. MIZMOR – WIT’S END
On the other end of the Doom spectrum, I fully recommend that you make time and gird your loins to experience the fear and wonder of Wit’s End, which comprises two absolutely stunning slabs of subtly blackened, suffocatingly bleak, Drone-tinged Doom – equal parts harrowing and haunting, abrasive and ambient – that together prove, once again, that Mizmor mastermind Liam Neighbors is a truly unique and inimitable talent when it comes to creating some of the most heart-wrenching, soul-crushing music out there.
Also, spoiler alert: this may not be the last time you see the name Mizmor in my year-end round-up(s). But you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out when and where…
07. BÆST – JUSTITIA
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Bæst are one of the best bands in Death Metal today, and it is a downright travesty that they still don’t get the same level of attention and acclaim as some of their more (in)famous peers.
After all, these guys consistently bring the riffs – and Justitia is no exception in that regard – without neglecting the hooks or the songwriting, or trying to appeal to the overly-pretentious zeitgeist that tries to insist that a band can’t “just” be a Death Metal band, as if that’s some sort of insult.
And, let’s face it, while this isn’t my favourite straight-up, no fucking around Death Metal EP of the year (there’s one more a little higher up) I’m still going to tell you that if you miss out on the absolutely monstrous grooves of “Justitia”, the vicious intensity and virulent melody of “Ecclesia”, the hellish hookiness of “Gargoyles” (ft. one of the final performances by the dearly departed Trevor Strnad), or the riff-tastic “Creature”… well, you’ll only have yourselves to blame.
06. BODY VOID – BURN THE HOMES OF THOSE WHO SEEK TO CONTROL OUR BODIES
When it comes to wrenching emotional extremity few bands do it as well as Body Void, and Burn the Homes… is another exquisite example of the newly-expanded trio’s ability to reach deep into your chest and fucking squeeze.
These two tracks, which lean even more than ever into the Sludge/Noise side of the band’s sound, are so unflinchingly, undeniably ugly – cranking up the filthy distortion and anguished aggression to almost anxiety-inducing levels – that you actually start to fear for the group’s health (and your own) while listening to them.
But, then, that’s the point… Body Void are angry, they’re hurting, and all that pain and venom needs to come out somehow. And what better way than this?
05. KANONENFIEBER – DER FÜSILIER
The ever-excellent Kanonenfieber actually released two EPs this year… and while I’ve cheated a little by featuring both of them here, it’s the more recent of the two, Der Fusilier, which connected with me the most.
That’s not to downplay how good Yankee Division is, by any means (at its best it’s on par with the very best of Rotting Christ) but Der Füsilier is that little bit darker, that little bit more intense, with an even moodier, doomier sense of atmosphere and a melancholy aura of bleak majesty that’s just… untouchable.
Another absolute triumph.
04. AU-DESSUS – MEND
Did you like the new Gaerea album? Well, chances are that, if you heard it (and it got a lot of well-deserved attention this year, so it’s likely that you did) and liked it then you’ll want to check out the most recent Au-Dessus EP as soon as you can.
That’s not to say that the two bands sound identical, by any means – it’s more a way of pointing out that while Mirage may have gotten all the comments and column inches there was another release that went far more under the radar that was equally as cathartic and captivating, yet arguably a little bit more raw around the edges… and that release was Mend.
There’s not a loose thread or wasted moment to be found on this album, and it’d be a big mistake to overlook it any longer.
03. JESUS WEPT – PSYCHEDELIC DEGENERACY
With guitar-work that makes most post-Heartwork bands seem lazy by comparison, drums that always hit in just the right way, at just the right time, and a knack for both blood-pumping grooves and face-melting intensity, Jesus Wept continue to prove themselves one of the most underrated and underappreciated bands in Death Metal.
02. MOROKH – THE TRIUMPH OF DEATH
There’s no question in my mind that Morokh keep on getting better and better with each and every release, and the fact that this coincides with them getting heavier and harder can’t be a coincidence.
But while The Triumph of Death certainly manages to kick things up yet another notch in this regard – leaning even further into the blistering, blast-driven Black Metal side of the band’s identity, while still retaining just a touch of their agile, duck ‘n’ weave Hardcore dynamic – what really makes it so good (and arguably the best thing the band have put their name to yet) is its willingness to expand the boundaries of the group’s sound, allowing space for more keening melodic lead parts, more moments of moody introspection, and more scene-setting ambience (including some impressively immersive interlude tracks) in amongst all the frenzied intensity and fire-breathing aggression which powers their increasingly vicious metallic machine.
01. UIV – FRIGUS
I predicted way back in January that this was likely to be my EP of the year (go check out the review if you don’t believe me) and it turns out I was right!
Unpredictable enough to always keep you guessing, yet grounded enough to remain absolutely gripping – think Imperial Triumphant meets Ingurgitating Oblivion *though that really only scratches the surface) – this is one mind-bending, genre-blending piece of Progressive/Dissonant/Atmospheric/Avant-Garde Post-Death Metal that manages to constantly surprise you every single time you listen to it (I’m still discovering new facets and new angles to it all these months later) and, in the process, actively get more and more impressive over time.
Sure, there’s lots of bands out there attempting to push the “experimental” envelope right now, but this particular EP stands out as something really special, and marks uiv out as a band to keep a very careful eye/ear on in the future!