(Today we continue the week-long rollout of DGR‘s year-end list with Part Three, covering his picks from 30 through 21.)
Looking back over older lists, day three always seems like the wildest one because we really start getting into the part of the list where the cuts start to hurt and anything resembling an actual ranking really starts to take shape, though to be fair at this point in the game I’m still mostly basing it off of just how much I remember listening to any particular release throughout the year.
This part of the list has a pretty wild spread I think, although your favorite abyssal death metal group somehow still hasn’t managed to break through the wall just yet, which I apologize for. Apparently the drywall around here is a lot tougher to get through than I would’ve thought. We have another EP in the fight here and then from there the blastbeat nerds get to fully take the stage for a while. If you’ll allow me one spoiler, I was pleasantly surprised by how well my opinion of Immolation‘s latest held up, so keep an eye out for that release. Somehow that band made an album befitting just how monstrously huge their sound has become over the years.
Otherwise, it’s time to keep the 2022 funeral pyre burning and brush off our year-end regalia and hope we can get a few more days out of it before having to toss it into an incinerator because buddy, I will tell you right now, ain’t nothing going to get some of those stains out other than fire.
30 – Patristic – Apologetica EP
We actually start the list with a shorter experience this time around, which like the last EP feautred in the year-end immolation means this segment will be a tad shorter than the fuller albums. Mostly because it’ll read like IT’S THREE SONGS, JUST LISTEN TO IT. But, we’re not that rude around here.
Patristic is a newly launched project that unites a pairing of musicians from Hideous Divinity and Svnth. Their first EP Apologetica launched right alongside the announcement of the band and it was so impressive I couldn’t help but be captured by it this year. Combining the suffocating and overwhelming atmospheres of something like Hideous Divinity with the melodrama and overwrought anguish of the current era of post-black metal and its kin is a stunningly good combination, and the three songs/twenty-plus minutes of Apologetica make for a hell of a listen.
The bulkier songs of Apologetica occupy the first two spots but because this is such a compact EP it’s easy to just tell people to listen to all three of them. The experience is harrowing and fraught at the best of times and is definitely one of those releases where you can tell that one of the Hideous Divinity crew is involved; much like their own music, Patristic‘s Apologetica makes the listener feel like they’ve been thrown into a tumbling vehicle where the only other passengers are forty-pound cinder blocks.
I did go deeper into what it was like just having a band wail on you for twenty minutes over at this link but suffice it to say, if you’re keeping up with the black metal scene then you should keep an eye on Patristic and hope that we’ll hear more from this project sooner rather than later.
29 – Aeternam – Heir Of The Rising Sun
You’ll recall that Montreal’s Aeternam have done pretty well with me previously. I thought their 2020 album Al Qassam was great and was more than excited to include them in the year-end list that year as well as nominate them for the most infectious song festivities that followed.
The group could’ve taken the conservative path and approached the writing sessions for a potential followup as just doing that album again and it probably would’ve flown with me just fine. It’s usually around the third or fourth time that you’ll start to hear rumblings about just how much a group can strangle out of any particular sound, anyway. Aeternam did not do that. Instead, having gone through a lineup shift in the time between albums wherein they had new people join the ranks on the guitar and bass front, the group framed Heir Of The Rising Sun around a particular historical era and leaned harder into the unexpected and exotic instrumentation that they had started to slot in alongside the already heavy core.
The resulting effort on Heir Of The Rising Sun whisked Aeternam further in the folk-metal direction and became one of their most approachable albums yet. Still heavy as hell, but their fifth release doesn’t quite achieve the Richter scale registering Earth shaking that had been previously issued forth as often as its predecessor. Where the group did succeed though was transforming Heir Of The Rising Sun into a musical journey, which is about as indulgent as you might expect after hearing the first song. When I reviewed Heir Of The Rising Sun I found that it takes a little while for the machine to spin up this time but when it the worm does finally turn, Heir Of The Rising Sun is great.
Aeternam did, however, go a hell of a lot ‘bigger’ here than they had on their previous release. In attempting to construct an album out of a specific historical timeline and the fall of Constantinople – which occupies the album’s closing song and is also the longest track here – Aeternam have constructed a disc that is almost Hollywood in scale and sometimes has the band slamming right up into their own wall of ambition. That said, alongside “The Fall Of Constantinople”, there are other highlights like “Beneath The Nightfall” and “Where The River Bends”, which is the song where it feels like the disc finally coagulates around a central idea after its earlier acts spreading their wings so far and so wide.
There’s interstitials and narration throughout Heir Of The Rising Sun so this is an album begging to get the entire ‘listen in one go treatment’ anyway, which is why splitting out highlight songs might be a little strange with this one. The album’s dynamic works out to be six gigantic adventures in song form and then three shorter interstitial numbers that often serve to relocate and reaccustom the listener to the song/region that it is likely to cover. Like mentioned before, the ambition on this one is gigantic and there was certainly a lot of appeal to Heir Of The Rising Sun for that reason. That’s why it has held on since its early September release date.
28 – Sakis Tolis – Among The Fires Of Hell
There are many people out there who are familiar with Sakis Tolis and his musical works. He’s been a very prolific creator for some time, whether he’s resurrecting projects like Thou Art Lord or somehow managing to keep the Rotting Christ name out there with the unleashing of another single or other release. The man’s musical vault is deep and it’s clear that he likely never stops working, but even then I had not expected that 2022 would see him doing a full solo release of material, but alas Among The Fires Of Hell would prove otherwise.
If you haven’t guessed, while he is definitely a paragon of consistency he also likes his chosen subject matter, so even on a solo work you won’t be walking too far from the caverns that Rotting Christ have otherwise occupied over the years. Among The Fires Of Hell hit way earlier in the year but I only got around to it post traveling haze when I had plenty of time to actually listen to it. I wrote about it here and found myself pleasantly surprised, especially the first half of the release wherein it seemed like Sakis Tolis had been bit by the goth rock bug and wanted to excise it from his system in his own works. The back half of Among The Fires Of Hell plays it a little closer to the chest and sounds something like he might’ve put out with his various other bands, but as a whole I had found the whole thing enjoyable.
This is a release where I wonder if other people will reach the same conclusion I did, i.e., that I would’ve really enjoyed an expansion upon the ideas that make up the first few songs of the album. Those are the ones that I feel truly justify this being a solo experience, whereas the songs from “Ad Astra” onward are going to hold a ton of appeal for people who’ve followed him for his Rotting Christ work. I’m well aware thats why those songs worked on me, which is why I’m still okay saying that songs like “Live With Passion (Die With Honour)” and “I Name You Under Our Cult” are still well worth your listening time. But the first few songs “My Salvation”, “Among The Fires Of Hell”, and “Dawn Of A New Age” are the ones that really let this project fly.
It’s interesting that in the time since the album’s release, Sakis has unleashed another song in the form of “Ancestral Whispers” that does a lot of work to tie those two halves together and for the most part succeeds. I just never would’ve guessed that the main appeal of an album like Among The Fires Of Hell for me would be when the artist is at his most brooding, meditative, and moody. I still hold to the view that he’s one of the best riff-writers out there and was overjoyed to grab a full release like this, which is why I’m still banging the drum (shield?) for it at the end of the year.
27 – Werewolves – Deathmetal/From The Cave To The Grave
The team behind Werewolves had a mighty productive 2022 with all members of this project involved in a handful of releases one way or another, on top of which somehow managing to crank out an EP and album on their own as well – sticking to a pretty rigid year over year schedule of snarling at the world and anyone who dares to walk by whichever fence post they’re tied up to.
Considering that they both hit this year, I felt no need to differentiate between their two releases this year when I included them for year-end nominations, much the same as I did with my review. Every release from Werewolves so far has felt like the band launching artillery shells with all of the creativity implied therein. They have an objective to just make some of the angriest and dumbest music possible, to the point where people who parody what death metal sounds like to someone who has never heard heavy metal often wind up sounding like something that Werewolves might’ve dished out.
They want to be relentless and single-minded and both the Deathmetal EP and the later-released album From The Cave To The Grave met that mark admirably. If we handed out trophies for such achievements we’d likely hand one to the Werewolves crew for somehow managing to strangle three full-length releases out of this formula and doing so without the blueprint seeming too tired yet… but they’d probably spend the next hour or two gnawing on said trophy before launching it out the closest window.
With Werewolves being a known factor it has to be stated that I still came to both the EP and the album. I even folded the two together into one bigger release so I didn’t have to keep selecting one when the other would end. I often describe powering myself through the day by the sheer force of ‘dumb’ and have said so numerous times across this list already. The force of ‘dumb’ is recognizable to anyone who listens to heavy metal, wherein the music will just be your sole source of energy and by being relentless and non-stop during the entire time you can draw life force from it.
It’s such a simple trick but I still found myself drawn to the opening song over and over, because the resigned sigh and ‘fuck it’ that led into “Self Help Book Burning” is a pitch-perfect way to launch into an album like From The Cave To The Grave. “We Are Better Than You” continues to be suitably stupid and the ‘how dare you buy our music?!’ continues to make me laugh in the last movement of that song. “Nuclear Family Holocaust” is also a world-ender of a song and “Oedipus Tyrannus” sees the band launching into new territories of teeth grinding.
Deathmetal has some fun covers on it as well, to the point where you almost don’t sense that they belong to different groups until you reach “Christ Raping Black Metal”… which you can probably guess translates about as well into the Werewolves sound as could be.
Werewolves are one of those groups that are suited to position themselves right in the middle of a list like this. They aren’t meant to be a critical darling but it is fucking terrifying how good the band have gotten at reaching that singular ‘boulder-breaking stupid’ objective of theirs.
26 – Godeater – Vespera
I think few bands out there have been on an upward trajectory quite like Godeater have been. Having been part of the tech-death wave for a while now, Godeater have evolved into something so much ‘more’ than that and the strangling atmospherics and smoke-filled haze that seems to inhabit every song makes the Glasgow-based group sound absolutely monstrous.
The group were already great as hell at straddling the -core and -tech wave way back around the time of their All Flesh Is Grass release but Vespera just takes things so much further. It’s an album that occupied such a specific Venn diagram within my brain that I couldn’t help but listen to it a lot since its September release. (An aside: September seems to be doing quite well for itself within this first chunk of the list, but September was also the start of a flood of releases that I referenced way back in the start of this year-end blast.) Thankfully, I didn’t have to write about this one so that I could fully concentrate on rocking out to it, instead Andy took on that duty and grouped it with two other very strong albums in De Profundis‘ latest and Live Burial‘s new one over here.
The point being with Vespera that because it was so good at inhabiting multiple worlds and blurring genre lines, Godeater were one of the beneficiaries of becoming a default go-to band during the back half of the year. I listened to “God Complex” and “Silhouette” a ton this year, while elsewhere “Self Surgery” makes for a fantastic starter and “The Hatchet” is just an adrenaline-fueled riff apocalypse. Peeking back at Andy‘s writeup of the album reveals the same thought as well in regards to “Qualia”, which is that the song is a hell of a way to send off an album.
For releasing an album that appealed in equal measure to the tech-death nerd part of me and the subsection that enjoys a good deathcore bruiser – which you’ll note every grouping so far has had at least one – Godeater were deserving of a spot in the 2022 DGR whatever the hell I wind up calling this thing when all is said and done.
25 – Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts
Arkaik aren’t the first of the tech-death crowd to fight their way into the year-end fray here but they’re the first of this specific subgroup that could be purely described as ‘tech-death’, vs some hybridization of a variety of genres. Of course, Arkaik‘s story is that they were part of the early technical death metal waves and had been ensconced within the world that would define the Unique Leader label’s sound for some time before relocating to their new home of fretboard fireworks The Artisan Era to release their new album Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts.
Arkaik have been on a multi-year sci-fi concept album quest and Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts is the latest addition to that affair. Where previously albums had been full of angular riffs that jutted out from the sides of cliffs, ambitious orchestrations, and in the case of Metamorphignition a crazed rhythm section, Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts is just a gigantic shred storm of an album. It may be the most quick-footed and riff-oriented that the band have been in some time but it works in this album’s favor. On top of that, maybe due to the label switch or for whatever reason, Arkiak sound a little scrappy again, which means they had some extra bile in their system to spew this time around. Songs seem to be punchier here, and there are a lot of moments throughout where you’re liable to be headbanging along whether you want to or not.
You bet your ass I reviewed this one too. I’ve felt for a long time that Arkaik were an excellent bellweather for where a scene may be in that particular moment. They’ve been fantastic at straddling the line of a whole bunch of different subgenres of the tech-death scene without fully falling into one or another. It’s the amorphous middle ground where the band seem to thrive as they cherry-pick the best of what they like and then turn around and use it to its maximum potential in execution of their newest album.
That’s why a tour through Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts can make it seem like the band are perfectly placed at their new label home – they’re slotting in line perfectly with their peers this time around. It’s also an album that introduces itself very strongly with “The Orphean Descent”, though songs like the titular “Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts” and “Abode Of The Deciever” are no slouches either. Arkaik do get a little more ambitious in the latter half of the album once you get past the initial knuckle-scrapers; songs get longer and way more in-depth but you can’t knock a song like “To Summon Amoria” or “Wayward Opulence” while they make the listener traverse a ton of musical miles within their six minutes.
Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts – I think – is one of Arkaik‘s strongest releases, put out in a shockingly strong year, and it is an easy recommendation.
24 – Allegaeon – Damnum
My initial love affair with Allegeaon‘s Damnum was strong this year. Upon release I can fully own up to listening to this one a ton as it is an album of Allegeaon refining upon what they do best. A little lighter than Apoptosis was – which felt weirdly reactionary and was surprisingly death metal influenced – Damnum felt like Allegeaon approaching an album as if they were trying to morph into Into Eternity. But then, weirdly enough, months would pass and I found myself actually approaching the album very little save for its single “Into Embers”.
I’ve still never figured out why either, because about a month and a half ago I found myself listening to Damnum a ton again and wondering why it just didn’t hang on to me throughout the whole year. They create albums so densely packed that even though this thing hit at the tail end of February, there’s always enough to discover within each song that you can find new moments that you suddenly adore despite them whipping right past you in a flurry of notes before. If nothing else, Damnum certainly has a strange dynamic going for it even though from the outside this is an album that is polished to a blinding shine. Every musician on here is operating at such a high level that you can tell Allegaeon are a band assembled out of the best from wherever they could find them, not just strictly local to one scene.
Damnum is a lot of what you come to expect from a band like Allegaeon, which again may explain why I’ve had multiple times of falling into and out of love with this album. It’s got the virtuosic guitar playing, some incredibly impressive rhythm-section work, and as a final work for Riley McShane with the band, is an absolute killer. There’s a review over here that delves well enough into just how dorky things get on this one, but needless to say, Allegeaon have been a musician’s band for some time now. After really finding their footing on Proponents For Sentience they have refined on that sound quite a bit without just replicating that album over and over ad nauseum.
I do sometimes wonder if the band did themselves a disservice by launching with “Into Embers” though, because thats a song that is a showstopper real early on in the album. But, songs like the “Dopamine Void” two-fer that lays in the back half, “Vermin” and “Blight”. were certainly strong enough to drag my attention back. Nowadays though, I’ve taken to just running Damnum front-to-back a lot, so these recommendations come hedged with a ‘maybe just let the whole disc run’ and see how you take to it. I apologize in advance since thats asking for an hour-plus of your time, but mayhaps all of the musical pyrotechnics that have become Allegaeon trademarks will win you over. They’ve continued to do so with me.
23 – Immolation – Acts Of God
Immolation is one of the larger-in-stature bands you’ll see on this year-end list. They have had a storied career and have spent a long time in the death metal trenches, having long earned a name for themselves as one of the pillars of death metal. It helps, of course, when your last few full-lengths and EPs have been absolutely murderous, and that includes the February release of Acts Of God.
Acts Of God was one of those albums early in the year that really helped me to finally wrap my mind around the fact that it was a new year musically. It did so by essentially slamming into the ground behind me and leaving a crater miles wide. Acts Of God broke out of its cell nearly five years after the release of the group’s previous album Atonement and basically gets by on what Immolation do best: non-stop drumming, vocals that could shake cities, and gigantic, leviathan-esque riffs that provide plenty of opportunities for Robert Vigna to wave his guitar around like a claymore during every song.
It helps that there’s a fucking ton of music here too, clocking fourteen songs and an intro track for over fifty minutes of their trademarked devastating death metal. It’s a weird feeling talking about how a band’s eleventh album is one of the best of the year – long after many bands are content to settle into a groove and play to their respective audiences – but Acts Of God isn’t willing to just rest on Immolation‘s laurels. It’s just one hefty monster after another.
Funnily enough, it was the simpler song titled tracks that grasped my attention at first, so for a long time this year I was swearing by “Blooded” and “Broken Prey”; both slightly over three-minute songs that were immense in scope and delivered the non-stop scorching action that I come to a band like Immolation for. Not that you’d be starved for material either, given the previously mentioned fifteen songs present here. “When Halos Burn” later on in the tracklisting joins its shorter brethren in the death metal planet-cracking class as well.
And, if you’ll indulge me stealing a few song recommendations from my cohort’s writeup of Acts Of God from earlier this year, “Incineration Procession” and “Noose of Thorns” also do a great job crushing skulls. “Noose Of Thorns” is one of the first times – there are a few like this on the album – wherein the impression that Immolation are a gigantic band music-wise for just being four dudes fully comes into play. It’s a big, slow song that grinds up the ground in front of it and leaves behind nothing but a fine dust. “Incineration Procession” on the other hand is great if you want a good impression of just how complicated Immolation can make a song and how stealthily they do it. What can appear to be a song powered forward by one, stuttering riff reveals itself to far more intricately woven than you’d expect, with how often the band will stop and shift gears within it.
But honestly, there’s a part of me that figures a lot of you might already know this. For being able to shake me from my post-year haze thoug,h and then still refusing to let go, Acts Of God fights its way into the year-end earth-stomping.
22 – The Halo Effect – Days Of The Lost
Then on the other side of the equation we have a newly formed band and their debut release… formed by longtime industry veterans uniting together to make music that sounds like it could’ve been on albums from their prior bands twenty years ago. You likely already know who The Halo Effect are and have been well aware of their album Days Of The Lost, especially given how the hype cycle leading up to it treated the album as if it was a savior to the melodeath scene – though I’d note little of that seemed to be coming from the band themselves.
The Halo Effect are formed out of melodeath veterans, specifically guys who were around for the late ’90s/early-2000s explosion of the sound, and the purpose of said group was to make music sounding like that. The part where it turned out every guy in the group had been part of In Flames at one point or another (vocalist Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity serving as a uniting factor in the shared history between those two groups) was also a big factor in just how much people were scrabbling to hear this release.
As our review of the album rightly stated though, Days Of The Lost was not some grand savior of the melodeath scene nor was it some massive middle-finger to an In Flames that had long since re-directed their sound into something more radio-worthy. Instead it was a pretty good snapshot of mid-2000s melodeath that threw us back to a time wherein the twin guitar lead melody was mighty important and a solid – if cheeseball – gallop would’ve made you ruler of the world. To be fair, it worked on me but as you’ve likely noticed throughout this year’s grave-dancing, I am not above a good nostalgia play. It’s just this may be the first time in memory where one was so specifically targeted at….me.
Now to let reality shatter our dreamlike state here, obviously The Halo Effect are not a band made specifically for me – I’ve often told people that appealing solely to my senses is a great way to go bankrupt. But, the band were clearly part of a movement that people had serious nostalgia for and managed to land themselves on some pretty big stages even when there was no album out. It’s resulted in situations wherein The Halo Effect have likely already played most – if not all – of their first release live. If you don’t want to feel yourself turning to dust, maybe skip the next few sentences.
Like many who were coming of age in the early-2000s, bands like Dark Tranquillity and In Flames hit at a perfect time and both were amazing gateways into the wider world of heavy metal, so Days Of The Lost is one of those albums where nearly every song is bound to work on a fundamental level. Yes, I can recognize that every lead and guitar solo here is sugary sweet, but by that same token I’m not going to act like the two singles “Feel What I Believe” and “Days Of The Lost” didn’t leave me jumping around like a buffoon anyway. I even appreciated the quick head-turn of ‘oh jeez is this going to be a ballad number’ that is the opening of “Conditional” before it becomes one of the better songs on the album.
Days Of The Lost quickly became a release this year that was the one I went to when I needed something catchy that could get stuck in my head for a while, as was the nature of music like this. Often when a band like this gets the supergroup treatment, the resulting music is either bland or the result of too many cooks in the kitchen. Days Of The Lost was not that. Instead, The Halo Effect knew exactly what they were making with this album and threw themselves wholly into it. It just happens that it also worked really, really well.
21 – Gloson – The Rift
It feels good finally having a new Gloson full-length out. The Rift is only the group’s second album but Gloson have already made a name for themselves as one of the sludge/post-metal acts to watch. We’ve been on The Gloson train for a while now as well, with a few of us handling different reviews of their album and EP since the release of Grimen way back in 2017. In fact, their newest album The Rift was the recipient of not one, but two different articles on this site as we ran not only a standard review of the new album but then wound up premiering a stream of it the following day.
The Rift is an album that goes about refining upon the group’s previous works carefully as well, maintaining the nightmarish dreamscape atmosphere of the EP Mara as well as maintaining the mountain-liquefying heaviness that made a release like Grimen so interesting. The Rift may only be six songs but when you can see that the tracks range between seven minutes in length and deep in the thirteen range, you can figure out pretty quickly the sort of music that Gloson make. Nothing the band do on The Rift can be taken lightly; it’s all big and slow movements, groove-oriented, and leaving footprints deep enough that the next rain storm that passes will fill them with enough water that the state of Minnesota could add them to their list of one thousand lakes.
The Rift may have come out in mid-March of this year but its an album that I find myself continually going back to. At only six songs it’s hard to pick out a specific breakout track, in part because you’ll note that I could recommend a song like “Ultraviolet” – which I think is a great closer of a song – that weights in at thirteen and a half minutes and it would be about the same length as getting you two-thirds of the way through the Patristic EP that I posted about at the very top of this year-end session. When you deeply admire each song here, it’s really fucking difficult to provide just a basic sampler platter.
All you need to do is let The Rift start up and listen to how the band make every moment a massive footfall in a smoke-filled haze to know that this is the sludge style being executed at a very high standard. Every deep bellow has the force of thunder behind it and the drumming is near hypnotic at time, picking up perfectly from where songs like “Cringe” and “Embodiment” closed out the previous full-length. Still, the way “Cerberus IV (Exodus)” leads the way into the previously mentioned “Ultraviolet” is perfectly fitting, and those two songs are perfectly justified in being the two that are well over ten minutes in length. You find yourself in a haze alongside the band when songs like that are going.
While 2019’s Mara EP may have dealt with themes of nightmares, dreamscapes, and sleep paralysis, Gloson are fully fit to embody the role of ritualistic hypnotism over the course of The Rift. It’s easy to see how the band are often brought up in the same breath as Cult of Luna these days. Things may have started today’s shenanigans in the high-speed and dramatic territory but Gloson are perfect for ending it in the low, slow, and moody realm.
Thus, Day Three draws to a close with what appears to be only minor damage to a few of the curtain rods around here… which to be honest I was expecting far worse from you guys. If we’re going to get out of this lease I at least need one or two holes in the wall so I can lodge a valid complaint about the state of the building around here.
We have Day Four looming over the horizon and I can see just how much the holiday season shaped my year-end listenings because wow do things either fall into the category of fast and mean, or nihilistically heavy, within the next grouping. Weirdly enough, I also somehow wound up with a Sesame Street worthy letter blocking by band name coming up tomorrow. I have been assured the finish line is in sight, though right now it’s pretty hard to see through the glare of all these fake lights on the ceiling. Either way, I shall see you all tomorrow-ish for the next volley of releases.
Sakis Tolis Ancient Whispers Its A Killer One Wow!
Its a great song, I just really need just a tiny bit more out of it so that it can justify being a solo work vs finding its way into a rotting christ album.
Harvest Of The Skulls by Werewolves….Salute n Laal Salaam To DGR …
Knew that Gloson record would show up here somewhere haha, you’re so predictable 😉
Personally I haven’t heard it yet but for a snippet and it sounds huge, gonna get to it at some point.
Aeternam on the other hand made my top 5, beautiful record <3
Gloson record is massive, those guys have that slow moving sound down right and I think what helps them a bunch is their vocals have a great low bellow to it that really keeps things centered on a low end groove.