(One of the perennial highlights of our year-end LISTMANIA series are the articles Neill Jameson has contributed, and we’re very happy that he’s done so again this year. This one is the first of a handful of Parts we’ll be publishing. To be clear, Neill wrote the title of this feature himself.)
I think I’ve struggled with the introduction to this more than the actual list. If 2022 was a flavor it would be lukewarm soft-serve dogshit with a sprinkling of cardamom for that nice little pop at the end. We could sit and examine the state of the world but that’s an increasingly depressing affair and this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, afterall. So instead I’ll just get into the reason for the season.
I spent a lot of time with cassettes and eps this year so the bulk of the forthcoming prattlings will focus around that. I’ve tried to do theme pieces in the last two years but really the only one I’ll do is the coup de grâce with my favorite releases of the year. So until then nothing on these lists is in any kind of order. Hopefully one or two selections tickles you and if so then please support the artists directly, especially since Bandcamp is now taxing the fuck out of us. I’ve included links where I could find them.
If I write about anything that came out at the end of 2021 and you’re excited to educate me on it, don’t.
Selenite Scrolls “Through Gnarled Woods and Glowing Haze..” Medieval Prophecy
A demo that sits comfortably in the mainland European tradition of the mid ’90s, Selenite Scrolls would have had a track on the “Encyclopedia Pestilentia” comp if they were around then. Mid-paced black metal with a dense layer of keyboards, a bit like Moonblood but more of a whispery rasp vocally. Doesn’t feel like it was written or recorded before a lot of you were born.
Anonymous Skull “S/T” Deathful Lust
Anonymous Skull has been a prolific surprise this year, releasing three demos that are different takes on outsider black metal. This 11-minute self-titled demo was the first that was brought to my attention since I’m not shy about my love of post-punk saturating into black metal but this takes the combination into new, horrifying directions. If Oven recorded Warsaw covers you might be close to describing this. Refreshingly weird.
Black Kruud “Elemental Cremation” Death Hymns
Black Kruud came to my attention after picking up their split with Леший earlier this year. Savage raw black metal keeping in the tradition of Wrath of the Tyrant and the French demo scene of the ’90s. Black Kruud outshine the majority of the current “raw black metal” what-have-you (Google Docs suggested I use “genre” here) by writing compelling music with an obvious lack of concern about outside judgment. Razor toothed and malicious.
Icicle “Demo 1” Rising Beast Recordings
I’ve seen this described elsewhere as “blackgaze” which makes me wish 75% of the people writing about black metal (and related subgenres) didn’t. Icicle is the project of Horus (Moonknight, Vorpal Sword, Lord Foul etc) and Andorkappen (Harassor) who perform a melancholic black metal that brings to mind Forgotten Woods/Joyless, with a lot of the latter’s indie leanings. This one flew under the radar but if the aforementioned bands are your thing you’d be wise to check this killer demo out.
Circle of Ouroborus “Aavikon Varjo” GoatowarRex
This was a great year to be into Circle of Ouroborus as they released three (!) full-lengths, all excellent. Aavikon Varjo is the strangest of the three as apparently they were apprehensive about releasing it. The first half of the record is closer to their more recent output, with strong and memorable riffing and reverb-drenched vocals. The second half is mostly ambient, with Antti’s spoken-word poetry woven throughout. While sonically not as cohesive as their full-lengths normally are, this record becomes more of an experience and less of a record when you sit down with it from start to finish.
Flaming Ouroboros “Promo 2022”
It’s been a very good year for Flaming Ouroboros, with multiple cassettes and the vinyl pressing of the debut Uphold the Majesty seeing release. Out of all of them, tho, “Promo 2022” has gotten the most out of my listening time. Black metal with soaring guitars and triumphant solos, Flaming Ouroboros continue to hone their craft.
Gates of Dawn “Promo 2022” Death Hymns
Gates of Dawn’s self-titled full-length was a highlight of the year but this two-song promo somehow manages to overshadow it. The first song manages to evoke Ildjarn, Parnassus, and Wrath of the Tyrant simultaneously while the untitled second is a lengthy space ambient piece ala Neptune Towers or Laurie Spiegel. This is just a taste of what Gates‘ second LP has in store next year on what is one of my most anticipated records of 2023.
Isolated Path “Opening a Gateway Through Ritualistic Extermination”
This is a nasty little fucker. Malicious noisy punk-infused black metal interwoven with horrific dark ambient, Ildjarn meets Lustmord if you need a reference. This is a really interesting project that has a few releases, all worth digging into, but this was a surprise when I heard it over the summer and really stayed with me for the rest of the year. If uncomfortable listening is your thing, this will be one of your favorites this year.
Slurred Oath “Widdershins” Expansion Abyss
Ending up part one of my yearly dribblings is the morose dark Americana of Slurred Oath’s Widdershins” This is a difficult recording to nail down, sitting somewhere between Portishead (without the record scratching) early Chelsea Wolfe, Mark Lanegan’s mid 2010s and that time Dylan Carlson wore a cowboy hat for ten years. Intensely dark and bleak rock with excellent vocals, this is an excellent palette cleanser and, I’d imagine, a great drinking partner. Don’t miss it.
And that takes us to the end of the first part of the parade I set up for myself to congratulate me on having excellent taste. There’s plenty more where that came from.