(NCS writer Todd Manning wades into our year-end LISTMANIA series with his picks for the year’s 15 best albums, plus separate lists for EPs, compilations, and “metal adjacent” records.)
I love year-end lists. I love the thought that goes into making them. And once mine are finished, I will pour over everyone else’s lists with a notebook in hand, searching for all the releases I missed. There’s always more music.
All this is to excuse my overly long article this year. You have a Top 15 albums, a top seven EP and compilation list, and a small metal-adjacent list. Because this is for the nerds like me. I wrote the kind of year-end list I would want to find with tons of bands to possibly follow up on.
And I should also note, that while I am probably biased, I think 2022 has been an absolutely stellar year for my hometown. Four Indianapolis-based bands made my year-end list and I think they deserve to be there regardless of our shared locale. I hope you agree.
1. Orthodox- Proceed
This is the album I didn’t see coming. Avant-garde doom duo reunite with the guitarist from their debut album and create an album as unpredictable as it is crushing. It’s experimental yet highly listenable and just feels… special. Each of these musicians is a master at their instrument and the songwriting is impeccable.
2. Imperial Triumphant- Spirit of Ecstasy
I thought this would be my album of the year before I heard it. I’m that big of a fan. While they may have been edged out of the top spot they certainly deserve all the accolades they receive and more. These guys are operating on an entirely different level. So heavy, so weird… and Kenny G is on it. What could go wrong?
3. Ashenspire- Hostile Architecture
I like weird music. These Glasgow-natives sound like Deathspell Omega performing as the pit band in a black metal musical. There are horns and strings and mind-bending riffs. The vocals are tortured but also seem to be agitating the masses toward strange revolution and stranger liberations.
4. Voivod- Synchro Anarchy
Man, I cannot imagine doing this metal thing as long as Voivod has. I’ve loved a lot of their most recent albums (as well as the classics), but Synchro Anarchy is their best in a long while. There’s a sense of urgency to this material and it’s also some of their most technical music to date.
5. Suppression- The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh
Fierce old-school death metal with a technical edge. Imagine Monstrosity’s Imperial Doom but with a classic bassist like Tony Choy or Steve DiGiorgio helming the bass duties. This stuff warms my heart, takes me back to the old days.
6. Mother of Graves- Where the Shadows Adorn
Epic death-doom executed perfectly. Take the Peaceville 3 and add a little Katatonia. These guys took the blueprint those masters created and ran with it. They made an incredible debut. The future is surprisingly bright for such a forlorn sound.
7. Blasted Heath- Vela
Bathory meets Pink Floyd? Yeah, I’m game. This reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey somehow told through a black metal lens. Full of truly stunning moments, and when they are not trying to awe the listener with vast soundscapes, they will get fists pumping with excellent blackened thrash.
8. Gudsforladt- Friendship, Love and War
Raw and underproduced black metal, but with great guitar harmonies. This really invokes that mystical vibe. I’ve been a black metal fan for a couple of decades, but the genre has really dug its claws in me the last couple of years and this album is the kind of stuff I can’t get enough of.
9. Spiral Staircase- Visions Shifting Form
Speaking of black metal, Cleveland’s Spiral Staircase bring the goods as well. This goes more directly for the throat but still has more than enough atmosphere. This is what I want to listen to when I don’t want to talk to people.
10. Demiricous- Chaotic Lethal
If Spiral Staircase reeked of an isolationist vibe, Demiricous expresses themselves in the opposite but equally as hateful way. This is a scream in the face of the masses, a riot running rampant through the streets. Thrash metal that avoids any kind of retro-vibe.
11. Mamaleek- Diner Coffee
Back to the weird. Black metal with blues and jazz overtones. An indescribable atmosphere. This is truly occulted music, like being dragged kicking and screaming into one of David Lynch’s nightmares.
12. Darkthrone- Astral Fortress
Leave it to Darkthrone to rediscover the more mysterious facets of their sound while putting an ice skater on the cover. This duo has always been amazing and this latest stylistic move coincides with my obsessions quite nicely.
13.Aeviterne- The Ailing Facade
Leaving the frozen forests behind for a moment, Aeviterne combine death metal with post-punk and industrial influences to concoct a sprawling urban nightmare. Not only is the concept intriguing but the execution is magnificent. This is like dropping napalm in a subway tunnel.
14. Obscene- From Dead Horizon…To Dead Horizon
Sick death metal that exploits mid-tempo riffs like no one else out there. Every album sees these guys hone their craft more and more. At this point, they don’t sound like anyone else and are an absolute force to be reckoned with. And that goes double for their ferocious live show.
15. Phantom Spell- Immortal’s Requiem
While I tend toward the darker and weirder end of the metal spectrum, every year one or two more traditional albums find their way into regular rotation. This year it’s Phantom Spell. They take traditional metal and combine it with seventies progressive rock a la Kansas, Yes, and Gentle Giant. The results are pretty amazing.
EP’s and Compilations
1. Absolute Convergence-4 way split with Fumes/Celestial Sanctuary/Thorn/Perilaxe Occlusion (Death Metal)
2. Hulder- The Eternal Fanfare (Black Metal)
3. Worm- Bluenothing (Death-Doom)
4. Ullequip- 23 (Grindcore)
5. Kontusion- Self-Titled (Death Metal)
6. Faster Than the Fucking Devil- 4 way split with Wraith/Black Knife/Graveripper/Unholy Night (Blackened Thrash)
7. Body Asphyxiation Science- Gravitational Blood Art (Technical Death)
1. Oxbow with Peter Brotzmann-An Eternal Reminder of Not Today: Live at Moers (Experimental Noise Rock)
2. JK Flesh- New Religions Old Rules (Heavy Techno)
3. Benúel- Killers Like Us (Noise Rock)
4. Intensive Care- Antibodies (Industrial)
5. Andrew Nolan- Entheogen (Industrial Dub)
Yearly Nerd Stats
At the time of this writing, I’ve listened to 202 new releases in 2022. That makes these lists representative of the top 13% of everything I’ve heard this year. I honestly could keep going because its been a stellar year for music. Thanks to all the artists and others who put out these releases and thanks to Islander for allowing me to contribute.