(Our friend Professor D. Grover the XIIIth (ex-The Number of the Blog) has been joining us this time of year for many years to share his diverse year-end lists, and does so again now.)
Greetings and salutations, friends. As another year ends I find myself trying to sift through everything I listened to with the intention of compiling a list of everything that I enjoyed, and as usual I realize that I listened to a whole lot of music.
Oddly, this year I thought I was going to have a difficult time filling out a real list, only to wind up with a list of 77 albums that I had to narrow down. Anyway, because they can’t all go on the list, here’s the honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut. All of these albums (and let’s be honest, more beyond this that I didn’t even list) could have made the main list. It really was that close.
Abbath – Dread Reaver
Antigama – Whiteout
Arch Enemy – Deceivers
Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts
Autopsy – Morbidity Triumphant
Ayria – This Is My Battle Cry
Billy Talent – Crisis Of Faith
Blastanus – Beyond
Carrion Vael – Abhorrent Obsessions
Catalyst – A Different Painting For A New World
Critical Extravasation – Order Of Decadence
Dance With The Dead – Driven To Madness
Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse
DeathFuckingCunt – Decadent Perversity
Deformatory – Harbinger
Freedom Of Fear – Carpathia
Gaerea – Mirage
Ghost – Impera
Goatwhore – Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven
Hellbore – Panopticon
Human Cull – To Weep For Unconquered Worlds
Humaniac – Until The LIght Fakes Us
Immolation – Acts Of God
Ingested – Ashes Lie Still
Inhuman Condition – Fearsick
Kavinsky – Reborn
Lamb Of God – Omens
Midnight – Let There Be Witchery
Misery Index – Complete Control
Moonlight Sorcery – Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity
Mutilatred – Determined To Rot
Narakah – Nemesis Cloak
NOFX – Double Album
Organectomy – Nail Below Nail
Origin – Chaosmos
Powerglove – Flawless Victory
Primus – Conspiranoid
Psycroptic – Divine Council
Puscifer – V Is For Versatile / Parole Violator
Revocation – Netherheaven
Run The Jewels – RTJ CU4TRO
Satan – Earth Infernal
Schizophrenia – Recollections Of The Insane
Sentient Horror – Rites Of Gore
Shadow Of Intent – Elegy
Shuriken Cadaveric Entwinement – Constructing The Cataclysm
Slipknot – The End, So Far
Soreption – Jord
Spire Of Lazarus – Soaked In The Sands
Sun Eater – Vermin
The Algorithm – Data Renaissance
The Chasm – The Scars Of A Lost Reflective Shadow
The Halo Effect – Days Of The Lost
The Troops Of Doom – Antichrist Reborn
Wilderun – Epigone
Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor
And now, the list itself. As always, I hope that you find some new things that you hadn’t heard before and can enjoy.
20. Odyssey – Venomous Rhetoric
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. My affinity for Spokane’s instrumental prog trio Odyssey is one that is well-documented at this point, and after 2019’s The Swarm found the band revisiting the heaviness of their early work, Venomous Rhetoric finds the band in an even more refined, aggressive mindset. This is the leanest and meanest that the band has sounded in a long time, and I love it.
19. Wormrot – Hiss
Hiss represents the end of an era for Wormrot, as it was announced just before the album’s release that founding vocalist Arif was going to be parting ways with the band. As far as swansongs go, Hiss is extremely impressive, packing a considerable amount of variety into 21 tracks and 32 minutes, with a ton of subtle homages to a number of different bands. It’s rare to see this kind of experimentation in a grindcore record, and it speaks to the band’s songwriting prowess that there’s still a strong sense of cohesion across the entire album. It may be an ending of one era, but there’s still a lot of promise in the band’s future.
18. Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave
A lot of the time when I’m listening to death metal, I crave intricacy and technicality. And then sometimes I just want to listen to big dumb riffs and songs about eating corpses and creating home furnishings out of body parts. Undeath really nails the latter on It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave, the band’s sophomore full-length, spewing forth memorable riffs and catchy choruses with a reckless abandon. Undeath don’t necessarily do anything new when it comes to old-school death metal, but they do it exceptionally well.
17. Thy Catafalque – Mezolit (Live At Fekete Zaj)
It’s a rarity for a live album to make this much of an impression on me, but then, this is not your ordinary live album. Thy Catafalque has existed for more than 20 years as a studio-only band, comprised of Tamás Kátai and a constant rotation of guest musicians, but in 2022 Kátai took the next step and brought the band to a live setting.
True to the band’s nature, the setlist (presented here in its entirety) spans 5 sets and a whopping 26 musicians, including 8 different vocalists. Kátai himself only plays bass on three tracks, a role he would take on more extensively on subsequent shows, but the result is nonetheless astounding.
For a band with as distinct and varied a sound, Thy Catafalque’s music translates extremely well into a live setting, and the recording quality is excellent. This is a truly wonderful addition to the Thy Catafalque catalog and worthy of a spot on my list.
16. Amorphis – Halo
It’s sometimes difficult to fully appreciate Amorphis’ consistency in the days and weeks after they release an album. The quality of their albums ebbs and flows, and the tide has been high with the last two albums, Under The Red Cloud and Queen Of Time, and Halo doesn’t quite reach the heights of those two albums. But it’s still an excellent album, playing to the band’s usual style with few missteps (although the closer, ‘My Name Is Night’, might be one of the worst Amorphis songs I’ve heard in the Joutsen era), and if it doesn’t exactly take any risks, it’s still another addition to the established discography of one of melodic death metal’s finest artists.
15. Dog Fashion Disco – Cult Classic
Improbably, Dog Fashion Disco have taken the influence of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More and turned it into a long career, dating back to 1995 and spanning a 6-year hiatus. Cult Classic is the band’s first album of new material in seven years, although in those seven years they released four albums of re-recordings from their early releases (due to an issue with the rights to the original recordings being owned by old record labels), and it seems that immersing themselves in their old material has been a positive influence on the new. Cult Classic is a funhouse trip through madness like the best of their records, brimming with unpredictable instrumentation and an array of twisted lyricism.
14. Analepsy – Quiescence
Cytotoxin’s brilliant Nuklearth was the album to open my eyes to the more brutal aspects of death metal, and while I’ve been more apt to explore brutal death in the last couple years, slam had remained an impenetrable barrier. It’s hard for me to really enjoy the things that make slam unique, be it the cartoonishly low gutturals and pig squeals or the slow-paced chugs and breakdowns. However, Analepsy managed to crack open that door with Quiescence, combining the technicality and melody that I gravitate toward in modern death metal with the aspects of slam that I’m not as comfortable with. Listening to Analepsy later opened me up to listening to and enjoying the new Organectomy, which came very close to making this list for similar reasons, but Quiescence laid down the groundwork.
13. Larkin Poe – Blood Harmony
The southern roots rock / blues / country played by Larkin Poe doesn’t seem like something I would typically listen to, but ever since I listened to their album Venom & Faith, an album nominated for a blues Grammy, I’ve been hooked.
The Lovell sisters (Rebecca on lead vocals and guitar and Megan on lap steel guitar and backing vocals) have always been multifaceted, exploring various forms of the aforementioned genres across their previous albums, and the same holds true on Blood Harmony, from the southern rock stomp of ‘Bolt Cutters And The Family Name’ to the country-fried ‘Southern Comfort’ to the blues-tinged closer ‘Lips As Cold As Diamonds’. Through the album, regardless of style, the tracks are carried by Rebecca’s powerful, captivating voice and Megan’s iconic slide-work.
12. Exocrine – The Hybrid Suns
Last year was a banner year for tech death, and while this year may not have had several instant classics, there were still a number of strong releases, like The Hybrid Suns. Exocrine play the kind of shred-heavy modern tech death that I really dig, blisteringly fast and aggressively melodious, throwing in an occasional curveball (I really liked the female clean vocals on ‘Dying Light’). I’ve always found Exocrine to be a competent tech death band, but this year they really brought things to another level.
11. Rammstein – Zeit
After a ten-year gap between albums from 2009-2019, Rammstein only made their fans wait three years on Zeit, and the result was a stronger, more consistent batch of songs. Zeit is filled with Rammstein’s trademark heavy riffs, synth-driven melodies, and Till Lindemann’s distinctive vocals and lyrics. Still, the band is not afraid to experiment (the use of autotune on ‘Lügen’ is an odd choice that actually works extremely well given the song’s subject matter), and while Flake Lorenz’s keyboards are always a factor, it feels like their presence in this particular group of songs has never been more prominent. It’s not Rammstein’s best album ever, but it’s still a great listen, and the videos that accompany several of the tracks are as stunning as anything they’ve released.
10. Buried Realm – Buried Realm
I honestly don’t know how Josh Dummer keeps doing it. He’s the sole member of Buried Realm and came more or less out of nowhere to release three albums of incredible melodic death metal and to land guest contributions from an amazing cast.
Buried Realm’s eponymous third album features drums from Finntroll drummer Heikki Saari (replacing the programmed drums of the first two albums) as well as guitar contributions from legends like Christofer Malmström of Darkane, Christian Münzner of Obscura, Christopher Amott of Arch Enemy, and Dan Fucking Swanö. And make no mistake, while these guests are impressive, Dummer’s talents are not to be understated, as he absolutely holds his own instrumentally in addition to writing, recording, and producing everything.
It’s the best-sounding album he’s released yet, production-wise, and every single track is simply phenomenal. If you like melodeath and haven’t heard Buried Realm, then you’re missing out.
9. Saor – Origins
Speaking of one=man projects (this is the third on the list, but it won’t be the last), Andy Marshall of Saor has been putting a brilliantly Scottish folk twist on black metal for nearly a decade. Origins is the fifth Saor release, and it’s easily the most accessible Saor album yet, forgoing a lot of the atmosphere of the previous albums in favor of a greater emphasis on speed and riffs.
While I’ve been a fan of Saor for a while now, Origins enthralled me from the first listen in ways that none of the previous Saor albums have, lodging itself in my brain while giving me a new appreciation for the albums that came before. I tend to like my black metal to be more melodic and folky (see Finntroll and Obsequiae), and Origins fits that perfectly.
8. Fallujah – Empyrean
Fallujah first captured my attention with their second album The Flesh Prevails, and its mix of atmospheric leads and technical riffs were unlike any other band in tech death at that point. The album’s followup, Dreamless, was solid, but their most recent album Undying Light represented a bit of a shift in style and didn’t stick with me nearly as much. Still, when the band brought back their old logo on Empyrean it gave me hope, and Empyrean did not disappoint.
New vocalist Kyle Schaefer and new bassist Evan Brewer acquit themselves impressively; Brewer in particular brings a great deal to the album, with his clicky bass tone really standing out to me and highlighting his contributions. This is definitely a return to form for the band and might be my favorite release of theirs yet.
7. Clutch – Sunrise On Slaughter Beach
The life cycle of Clutch is one of consistency, even in uncertain times. Generally, Clutch release an album every 2-4 years, then tour relentlessly while working on new material, then record and release a new album, head out on tour again, and so on. Covid threw a wrench into that cycle, preventing them from touring for nearly two years, although that led to the band livestreaming from the studio a number of times, and ultimately, a new Clutch album made it out in time for the year four deadline.
Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is typically excellent Clutch, a little shorter than usual but still packed with the usual Clutch riffs and Neil Fallon lyrics, plus a few curveballs (female backing vocals, a glockenspiel, even a theremin solo!), and for a band so prolific, there are no signs of a decline anywhere in sight.
6. Miscreance – Convergence
Considering how much reverence there is for the classic early Florideath sound, it’s surprising there aren’t more bands today that really emulate that sound. This year actually brought at least two bands who do with great success; while I couldn’t quite fit Critical Extravasation’s excellent Order Of Decadence into my list, Miscreance simply could not be ignored.
If their logo reminds you of Atheist, well, that’s probably not an accident, as Convergence owes a great deal of their sound to Atheist as well as Death, Pestilence, Morbid Angel, and Cynic, and their vocalist is a dead ringer for Martin Van Drunen. Still, while there are definite homages to all of those bands on this album, there is nothing about those homages that feels forced, and honestly it’s not a stretch to imagine Miscreance as a contemporary of those bands.
Convergence is an incredible album in its own right, done in a style that’s not an easy one to pull off, and it’s definitely one of the best death metal albums of the year.
5. Tómarúm – Ash In Realms Of Stone Icons
Black metal is not a subgenre known for the kind of flashy technicality that you find in a lot of death metal, and although there have been a few bands that have mixed the two forms (Stortregn immediately comes to mind), I’ve never heard anyone take the approach that Tómarúm does.
Ash In Realms Of Stone Icons is a very good album on its front half, but the final two tracks, totaling 26 minutes, are alone worth the price of admission and pushed this album into my top 5. The entire album is filled with frenetic riffing and acrobatic bass, dizzyingly overpowering across 10+ minute songs, taking a maximalist approach to black metal that’s somewhat akin to what First Fragment do with death metal, and it’s an absolutely incredible experience.
4. Blind Guardian – The God Machine
I was thinking after Beyond The Red Mirror that it was unlikely that Blind Guardian would ever truly approach the greatness of Nightfall In Middle-Earth or At The Edge Of Time, my two favorite Blind Guardian albums. It wasn’t that Beyond The Red Mirror was bad, it just wasn’t as good as those two albums. The Twilight Orchestra album that the band released was underwhelming, being that it was basically just Blind Guardian minus the metal, and so I had fairly low expectations for The God Machine. And then I heard it, and I was blown away.
There’s a sense that the band wanted to get back a bit to their speed metal roots, and there are tracks on this album that are some of the fastest and heaviest they’ve recorded in a long time. Also, there are songs about all kinds of fantasy nerd shit like Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Trilogy, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and The Witcher, stuff that appeals to a fantasy nerd like me. This is definitely one of the best power metal albums in the last 10+ years.
3. Carpenter Brut – Leather Terror
While my interest in synthwave has waned as the genre quickly passes the point of oversaturation, there’s still a handful of artists whose music stands out enough to remain worthy of my interest, and Carpenter Brut reigns supreme over all of them.
Leather Terror is the second album in a planned trilogy, following 2018’s Leather Teeth, and it’s an absolute beast from the opening march of ‘Opening Title’. There’s several standout guests, from the back-to-back bombshells of ‘The Widow Maker’ featuring Gunship and ‘Imaginary Fire’ with Greg Puciato, the haunting voice of Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg on ‘…Good Night, Goodbye’, and Tribulation’s Johannes Andersson on the titular closer.
Leather Terror is an absolute ride from beginning to end, darker and heavier than the first of the trilogy while still maintaining a very cinematic feel. The transition from ‘Day Stalker’ to ‘Night Prowler’ is fantastic and subtle, to the point that it took me a number of listens until I could really pin down when the song shifts from one to the other, and the closing triptych of songs is masterful. Carpenter Brut shows that synthwave isn’t entirely out of fresh ideas yet, and I’m looking forward to the trilogy’s end.
2. Celldweller – Satellites
This album came very, *very* close to being my album of the year. A relatively recent release, I was still debating during the making of this list on whether this would be number one. I’m actually still debating as I’m typing these words right this very moment.
The final one-man project on the list, Celldweller is the work of the man known as Klayton, who is also the driving force behind Circle Of Dust, Scandroid, FreqGen, the FiXT record label, and a major influence in my musical taste dating back to my formative years. Satellites is technically the eighth Celldweller album if you count three albums of instrumentals and b-sides, and songs from the album have been floating around the internet since 2019 (Klayton likes to release songs early), so I’d heard a few of these tracks prior to the album’s release, but there’s nothing like hearing them in context with the rest of the album. It’s fair to say that these are some of the heaviest, most aggressive Celldweller tracks ever, and honestly a lot of the riffs remind me of Circle Of Dust, but the major difference between the two projects tends to be the synths and samples that accompany the riffs.
Honestly, when this album first came out, there was a solid four or five days where this was literally the only thing I listened to, repeatedly, some 15-20 times, something that is highly unusual for me to do. Satellites utterly captivated me from the first listen, and the more I listen to it the more I think that it might be my favorite Celldweller album yet. It’s focused, intense, angry, and devastatingly brilliant, and I think it’s going to be an album that I return to many, many times in the future.
1. Allegaeon – Damnum
It feels like I’ve been listening to Damnum for the entire year, and it’s been my favorite the entire time. While the band’s signature style is on full display on this album, they also broaden their sound into a more progressive direction than ever before, and the lyrics and themes are more introspective and personal than anything they’ve done previously.
I’ve always been a massive fan of the band’s distinctive riffs and guitar tone, but the addition of Riley McShane on vocals truly pushed the band to new heights. It saddened me greatly to learn that McShane had parted ways with Allegaeon after the release of Damnum, as this album had really cemented him as one of metal’s most dynamic, talented vocalists. His vocal range is truly impressive, from absolutely bestial growls and high screams to extraordinarily versatile clean vocals. His tenure with Allegaeon ends on the most impressive of highs, and his presence in the band is going to be difficult to replace.
Still, the rest of the band is more than able to keep pace with McShane’s vocal pyrotechnics, crafting a diverse and mature array of songs befitting the lyrical subject matter. Greg Burgess is an incomparable guitarist, although Michael Stancel is most definitely up to the challenge of keeping pace with him, and bassist Brandon Michael and new drummer Jeff Saltzman hold things together while adding their own flourishes.
There are few bands who can match Allegaeon’s blend of melody and technicality, and Damnum might just be the high water mark for them. The future is uncertain for the band, although the return of original vocalist Ezra Haynes as McShane’s replacement offers some stability. But there’s no question that Damnum is an outstanding addition to an already loaded discography, and in the end it managed to hold up as my album of the year.
That Blind Guardian record is one of a kind! Is like they forgotten piece between “Somewhere Far Beyond” and “Imaginations from the Other Side” Definitely an AOTY contender.