(Andy Synn presents his selections for this year’s top-tier albums)
What more is there to say?
If you’re one of our long-time followers then you likely already know the score, and if you’re new to the site (welcome, by the way) then… well, it’s probably pretty self-evident right?
The albums featured here are all records which I feel achieved a form of greatness in their own way – maybe they pushed their particular genre forwards, maybe they combined different styles to create something even stronger than the sum of its parts, maybe they just did it better than everyone else – and which I think represent the cream of this year’s metallic crop.
Of course, as I’ve stated elsewhere already, it’s not comprehensive or definitive – no list can be, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just lying, to you and to themselves – but the level of quality is extremely high all the same, and I’d put any of these selections up against any other year in a heartbeat.
THE LEGEND BEGINS
It’s always reassuring to see that the future of Metal is in good hands, and with new artists/albums like these kicking out the jams like there’s no tomorrow… well, let’s just say I’m not worried.
Whether you were looking for devastating Death Metal disciples (Autophagy, Phobophilic, Reeling Aura) fascinatingly fresh takes on Black Metal (Dissolve Patterns, Doldrum, Te Ruki), heavyweight hybrids of Death Metal and Hardcore (Slowbleed, Tribal Gaze), or a captivatingly cathartic blend of melody and power (Mother of Graves, The Otolith), there was no shortage of new bands to pledge your allegiance to this year.
Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade
Autophagy – Bacteriophage
Dissolve Patterns – Dissolve Patterns
Doldrum – The Knocking, Or The Story of the Sound that Preceded Their Disappearance
Mother of Graves – Where the Shadows Adorn
Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity
Reeking Aura – Blood and Bonemeal
Slowbleed – The Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn
Swampborn – Beyond Ratio
Te Ruki – Marako Te Ruki
The Otolith – Folium Limina
Tribal Gaze – The Nine Choirs
DEATH MAY NEVER DIE
Death Metal, as a genre, will never die. Not only is it shamelessly cannibalistic, willing and able to feed on its own flesh in order to sustain itself even while other genres begin to starve, but it’s also endlessly regenerative, capable of evolving, or devolving, as necessary to survive.
From the blackened bile of Eggs of Gomorrh and the grind-inspired brutality of Osserp to the sheer riffosity of bands like De Profundis and Ripped to Shreds, the crushing Death Metal/Hardcore crossover of Lifesick and Misery Index, and the doom-laden death-dirges of Innumerable Forms, there’s never been a better time to get into Death Metal.
Acephalix – Theothanatology
De Profundis – The Corruption of Virtue
Eggs of Gomorrh – Wombspreader
Godless Truth – Godless Truth
Hath – All That Was Promised
Haunter – Disincarnate Ails
Heaving Earth – Darkness of God
Inanna – Void of Unending Depths
Innumerable Forms – Philosophical Collapse
Lifesick – Misanthropy
Misery Index – Complete Control
Osserp – Els nous cants de la Sibil·la
Revocation – Netherheaven
Ripped to Shreds – Jubian
TWISTED AND TECHNICAL, PROGRESSIVE AND POWERFUL
2022 also produced a wealth of Death Metal albums on the more Dissonant and/or Technical and/or Progressive end(s) of the spectrum, further showcasing the different ways in which the genre has evolved and expanded, whether that was the blazing fretwork and blistering speed of bands like Godeater and Psycroptic, the scorching dissonance of Light Dweller and Verberis, the spellbinding songwriting of An Abstract Illusion or Becoming the Archetype, or the sheer OTT assault-upon-the-senses of groups such as Artificial Brain and Hurakan.
An Abstract Illusion – Woe
Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain
Becoming the Archetype – Children of the Great Extinction
Allegaeon – Damnum
Dischordia – Triptych
Godeater – Vespera
Hurakan – Via Aeterna
Light Dweller – Lucid Offering
Psycroptic – Divine Council
Verberis – Adumbration of the Veiled Logos
Wake – Thought Form Descent
NONE MORE BLACK
No matter your specific tastes or preferences, the Black Metal scene had something for you this year.
Did you want riff-driven rage? Then Autonoesis, Feral Light, and Black Fucking Cancer had you covered.
How about epic extremity? Then try some of the new Imha Tarikat, Kampfar, or Vanum albums.
Or maybe sinister malevolence was more your thing? Then Gevurah, Panzerfaust, and Sisyphean delivered all the grim grandeur you could ask for… and then some!
Abduction – Black Blood
Autonoesis – Moon of Foul Magics
Black Fucking Cancer – Procreate Inverse
Crust – Wanderers
Feral Light – Psychic Contortions
Gaerea – Mirage
Gevurah – Gehinnom
Grima – Frostbitten
Imha Tarikat – Hearts Unchained – At War With A Passionless World
Kampfar – Til Klovers Takt
Kathaaria – To Be Shunned By All… As Centres of Pestilence
Kvaen – The Great Below
Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition, Chapter III: The Astral Drain
Sisyphean – Colours of Faith
Toadeater – Bexadde
Vanum – Legend
Vimur – Transcendental Violence
DEVILS AND DEVIANTS
On the more unorthodox and unconventional end of the Black Metal spectrum, big names like Blut Aus Nord and Krallice put out some of the best work of their careers this year (with Psychagogue actually being my favourite Krallice album since 2016’s Prelapsarian), as did less well-known, but no less outstanding, artists like Ashenspire and Fell Ruin (with Hostile Architecture and Cast In Oil The Dressed Wrought, respectively).
And who could forget (or ignore) the decadent discordance of Imperial Triumphant‘s latest concoction of gilded grime, or the absolutely soul-crushing new album from Germany’s Ultha?
Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture
Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
Dødsengel – Bab Al On
Fell Ruin – Cast In Oil The Dressed Wrought
Icare – Charogne
Imperial Triumphant – Spirit of Ecstasy
Krallice – Psychagogue
Sigh – Shiki
Ultha – All That Has Never Been True
White Ward – False Light
SLOW ‘N’ SLUDGY, DARK ‘N’ DOOMY
If you like your music gloomy and grimy and/or bleak and brooding and/or moody and mournful, then the darker corners of the Metal world concealed a number of doom-laden, sludge-soaked delights this year, from melancholy melodic masterworks by the likes of Eight Bells and Messa, to riff-driven ragers from Mantar and Swamp Lantern, to unrelentingly ugly slabs of heart-wrenching heaviness by Abest and Ether Coven.
And, of course, no list is complete without mentioning the proggy, grungy, hook-heavy new album from resurgent Prog-Sludge powerhouses Cave In, or Conjurer‘s surprisingly divisive (but, in my opinion, far superior) second album, the slow-burning, page-turning Pathos.
Abest – Molten Husk
Cave In – Heavy Pendulum
Cavernlight – As I Cast Ruin Upon the Lens that Reveals My Every Flaw
Conjurer – Pathos
Eight Bells – Legacy of Ruin
Ether Coven – The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – The Harvest
Mantar – Pain is Forever and this is the End
Messa – Close
Mizmor/Thou – Myopia
Swamp Lantern – The Lord Is With Us
PROGRESSIVE, MELODIC, ATMOSPHERIC
Both Amorphis and Cult of Luna put out great new albums this year, each of them (in my opinion, at least) managing to top their previous efforts in the process (though I’d argue that both Gloson and Hundred Year Old Man delivered even better albums than The Long Road North), as did Astronoid, whose new record easily wipes away any lingering concerns left over from the release of their disappointing self-titled second album, and SOM (in fact, I’d go so far as to say that – spoiler alert – The Shape of Everything is easily up there among the very best records of 2022).
And then there was Devin Townsend, whose decision to strip back his sound (relatively speaking) on Lightwork resulted in the creation of some of his most honest, and heartfelt, material in years.
Amorphis – Halo
Astronoid – Radiant Bloom
Brutus – Unison Life
Cult of Luna – The Long Road North
Devin Townsend – Lightwork
Disillusion – Ayam
Gloson – The Rift
Holy Fawn – Dimensional Bleed
Hundred Year Old Man – Sleep In Light
SOM – The Shape of Everything
Hardcore, Grindcore, Metalcore… whatever flavour of “-core” you prefer, 2022 had something to reward you for keeping the faith, from the fearless vulnerability and visceral intensity of the likes of CLEARxCUT and Ithaca, to the humongous riffs and gargantuan, Death Metal inspired grooves of Fit For An Autopsy and Get The Shot (the latter of whom almost made my Personal Top Ten this year with their obscenely heavy, and stupidly fun, new album Merciless Destruction).
This was also a great year for stand-out releases in the Grindcore scene, among them the new Cloud Rat, Helpless, Escuela Grind, and Unyielding Love albums, as well as – I’m sure – many, many more which I missed out on!
Alexisonfire – Otherness
CLEARxCUT – Songs of Desire Armed
Cloud Rat – Threshold
Escuela Grind – Memory Theater
Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What The Future Holds
Get the Shot – Merciless Destruction
Helpless – Caged In Gold
Implore – The Burden of Existence
Ithaca – They Fear Us
Morgue Supplier – Inevitability
Nostromo – Bucephale
Spill Your Guts – The Wrath It Takes
Spiritworld – Deathwestern
Unyielding Love – Flesh of the Furnace
So there you have it… 99 albums and not a weak one among them.
Thanks for reading, and make sure to tune in again tomorrow to find out which 10 of these records (which, even as I type it, seems like a terribly restrictive and insufficient number) I’ve chosen to represent the very best-of-the-best for 2022.
Between this and the “good” list, I have a couple hundred presents to open. Sure, some will be thrown out, and some returned, but still, It’s a Christmas miracle! As always, Andy, THANK YOU!!! My metal collection would suck without you.
Ha, that’s very kind of you to say.
I do feel for your wallet though.
First: Your category presentation is perfect. This was a colossal year for great metal. My “top” list is close to 40 albums and after #8, they’re all equals, so this helps shine light throughout.
Second: Happy to see Feral Light highlighted, didn’t see them getting coverage they deserved this year.
Only a few bands with new releases I would have here, otherwise you’ve pretty much included all of them in one of your lists: Dysgnostic, Jade, Gutvoid & Tomarum.
Cheers & thanks to you for sharing all the unique styles thriving this year
Ah ha, well I *did* mention Jade in my “Good” list. But Dysgnostic was one I really regret not getting to in time.
I really like how you group these by categories – helps me work through and prioritize (as I probably missed 2/3 to 3/4 of these…sigh). The breadth of it all is simply staggering. You clearly are much better at time management than i am, sir.
Happy to see WAKE (which I think you originally turned me onto two or three EOY lists ago-TY), Misery Index (which hasn’t gotten enough love), and Spiritworld in the above.
Looking forward to the final 10 tomorrow. Do you try to include a cross-section of the 8 categories above – or do you just let it rip, categories be damned?
Thanks again for doing all of this.
I’m glad the categories thing is helpful. I’ve been refining the format/layout of these posts a little bit more each year, and I think this is perhaps the best way to present all the different “options” to people.
As for the final “Critical Top Ten” – I try to give a fair spread of the year, as best I can. It doesn’t necessarily follow these particular categories 1:1, but I do my best to cover as many different bases as possible so as to give a good overview of the last twelve months.
I like to think of it as a sort of “time capsule” – no, it’s not the *definitive* ten “best” albums of the year (that’s impossible) but it’s a selection that represents, collectively, the best that the year has to offer.
Thanks for all the work behind these lists, just amazing to dive into listening to these records and feel that kick when the music hits you in the right spot.
I had the good fortune of seeing Phobophilic live this weekend. They perform at a level where could you never guess they only have one album out. Very, very exciting band!
I mean… they have been putting out music for the last 5 years. It’s not like they’re brand new to this
Wow Alexisonfire represent! With them and Get the Shot, Ithaca and Spirit World being some of my faves I guess I’m a Core guy now?? Who knew? Definitely much more to check out here though after I listen to Autonoesis for the hundredth time. Ripped to Shreds, An Abstract Illusion, Gaerea, Imha Tarikat, White Ward, Conjurer, all make top spots for me as well this year. My personal number one being Witchery-Nightside. Can’t wait for the top ten tomorrow!
Yep, I’m afraid you’re “one of us” now.
Your basketball jersey and snapback are on their way as I type this.
Great list with so much to explore, as always. I really appreciated the inclusion of Ripped To Shreds; all hype deserved, and low-key I think the better consensus dm album of the year over Undeath. Great also to see the Haunter album here–another one that I feel like I didn’t hear enough about. I do feel Maul’s Seraphic Punishment belonged on this list, but there’s always gonna be one of those…
“…all hype deserved, and low-key I think the better consensus dm album of the year over Undeath.”
You are correct, sir!
Also, let me tell you, I saw Maul’s name around so much that I was really looking forward to checking them out… and then I forgot. Dammit.
I love and appreciate that this was done. Thank you! But I gotta say… what about Daeva-Through Sheer Will and Black Magic?! I thought for sure it would have been on the good list if not the great. 20 buck spin artist
Simply put, I can’t comment on things I haven’t heard, and so if it’s not on this list, or yesterday’s list… that means I haven’t heard it. There’s only so many hours in the day, days in the week, etc.
Yeah I definitely feel that… if there’s any albums I can recommend it’s that one. The opening riff of passions under the hammer had me instantly hooked. Black thrash goodiness. Again though thank you for doing this I’ve already found like 20 artists I love thanks to thu7s list.
It’s definitely on my “catch-up” list (and I do usually manage to catch up with a good number of albums I didn’t have time for during the year before the inevitable January rush starts the whole damn process all over again!).
Keep putting up the good fight bro! You’re doin the dark lords work
Aways appreciate the year end lists just wanted to say thank you
That Ashenspire would be great if it wasn’t for the cheeseball lyrics. Capitalism has its issues but anarchism is a childish fantasy and I don’t need entertainers educating me on political issues. Creative and fairly unique album though, although obviously a Forest of Stars and Dodheimsgard have done similar before.
It’s more noise rock but too bad Woorms-Fatalismo isn’t talked about more.
Someone create a Spotify playlist for these albums. I’m too lazy to look them up individually.
Thanks again for another huge list. Really powerful stuff…
You’re welcome. I hope it’s helpful/useful!
Damn Andy extraordinary work here. My ears are forever in your debt! Happy to see Doldrum, Feral Light, Toadeater and Vanum get some more love. Crazy good, super creative albums.
Yeah, I love all of those (though perhaps the Vanum one slightly, ever so slightly, less than its predecessor).
Woo wee woo waa, 12 of my top 20ish are represented here, doin sumpin right! If you had a Power/Trad grouping we might be going for darn near a CLEAN sweep, but, alas…
Great list Synn, brutal even.
Ha, yeah, I fully admit the Power/Trad side of things is generally overlooked in my lists. It’s just not *me*, generally (though there is one in my “Personal” list that errs in that direction, FYI).
What the hell, Andy!! Thank you so much!
No Great Men…Only The Great Many by Ashenspire….Thunderbolt Released In To The Ears Of Many
… and I’ve heard only 24 of these, lovely 😀
Swamp Lantern FTW!!! What a hell of an album!!!! AOTY contender!!!!
Now, that’s what I like to see. Some extra appreciation for one of the smaller bands punching WELL above their weight. Really glad you liked it.
Wow–Slowbleed. and Swampborn.
Both excellent. Both only just getting started. The future is bright!
Absolutely. I wish Swampborn had black t-shirts for sale though rather then white!
Noenum is the miss of the year, top ten Black metal releases over the last decade definitely. For those who give a shit Manbyrne, Knokkelklang, Wedrujacy Wiatr, Manni, and Nihtsin are some of the others.