(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.