For the 12th year in a row, our friend Johan Huldtgren of the Swedish black metal band Obitus — whose 2017 album Slaves of the Vast Machine (reviewed and premiered here) is still their latest release — has again allowed us to share with you his year-end Top 10 list, which originally appeared on Johan’s own blog.
And without further ado, we turn the floor over to Johan:
10: Drudkh – Всі належать ночі
Drudkh is one of those bands I enjoy immensely but which I often forget about. It’s rarely the band I will randomly throw on, which is not to say they’re not very good, but I need to be reminded of them. Needless to say it’s been hard to not think about them in 2022. While stylistically little has changed in the last few albums, Drudkh continue with their atmospherically tinged blackmetal. though the production has a warmer, fuller sound than the last few ones which I thought were a bit tinny. This is a great addition to their discography and an album which despite its late release has quickly rocketed up my play count chart.
9: Bâ’a – Egrégore
I stumbled upon Bâ’a’s Egrégore earlier this year and being wholly unfamiliar with the band I simply enjoyed the album. It wasn’t until much later I realized they had another album out a few years ago. Listening to Egrégore after having listened through Deus qui non mentitur the first thing which strikes me is that it’s a more restrained affair. Part of that is down to the production, which is warmer and more dynamic than on the debut, but the music is also more varied, which makes it an interesting album that lingers with you a bit longer than it might otherwise have. Recommended.
8: Ateiggär – Tyrannemord
A friend recommended this album to me and it stuck immediately. As sort of a theme of my list this year it seems, it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized the two people behind Ateiggär are the same two who are behind Ungfell (which our intrepid readers will remember from last year’s list). Ateiggär hark back to an earlier era of blackmetal with plenty of tasteful keyboards (think early Satyricon), and at times some soaring vocals. While the latter would normally be a non-starter for me they are again done tastefully and sparingly so it never kills the mood. This is a great little album which pulls at all the right nostalgic muscles.
7: Véhémence – Ordalies
Véhémence is a medieval inspired blackmetal band, which a quick glance at the cover quickly confirms. Véhémence straddles this fine line where they incorporate just enough let’s call it epic pieces without it spilling over and becoming cheesy. There are times where I wish they’d pulled back a bit on some of the soaring cleanish vocals, but then they burst out and you tend to forgive and forget for a bit. It’s a minor quibble because the song writing and execution is so good you cannot help but like it.
6: מזמור & Thou – Myopia
As a longtime fan of מזמור but unfamiliar with Thou (sludge has really never been an interest) I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but turns out it’s quite excellent. The album starts out with a song that to my ears could have come off of a מזמור album, having that sharp riffing and the raving vocals (they do swap back and forth between the vocalists, something which also turns out to work remarkably well) but also having a crushing heft to it which I can only assume we can credit Thou for. I’m sure this collaboration was a one-off, but I’m hoping there may be more someday.
5: Pensées Nocturnes – Douce Fange
I’ve always had a soft-spot for very weird out of the box blackmetal, things that have the essence of blackmetal but where the music doesn’t always display that. This features lots of strange old-timey instruments in compositions which are mixtures of jazz, tango, and classical pieces but then just slathering it over with thick grotesque blackmetal. This is certainly not for the faint of heart or for purists of any genre, but if you’re adventurous this is certainly a ride worth taking.
4: Sisyphean – Colours of Faith
Sisyphean were another new find this year, cleverly marketed as dissonant blackmetal which is not only an apt description but probably helped it in a year which saw releases from many of the bands it was being compared to. Their previous full-length clearly shows some of the dissonant tendencies, albeit not quite as fleshed out. Here they clearly doubled down on the dissonance but without losing sight of the larger whole and still ending up with well-composed and memorable songs. Highly anticipating what comes next from this Lithuanian quintet.
3: Aara – Triade II: Hemera
Aara continue their trilogy based on Charles Maturin’s book Melmoth the Wanderer with their second installment Triade II: Hemera. If you listened to and enjoyed last year’s first part there is really nothing here that you shouldn’t be lapping up; they continue on the same path with an often blistering pace yet highly melodic and perfectly composed blackmetal. My only complaint is the use on one track of some operatic vocals which I could never get past, but that’s a small misstep which shouldn’t distract from the overall achievement.
2: Jordfäst – Av Stoft
Like last year’s album it’s again just two longer compositions (clocking in at just over 30 minutes), and musically we’re in the same realm as before, although especially on the first track they’ve clearly kicked the tempo up a notch. The riffing while not wholly different from the debut is stronger, and most notably on the first track almost thrashier, yet at times giving way to a gloomier almost doomy feel. So while much remains the same, there have been improvements in both composition and production values. This is a ridiculously impressive sophomore release and infectious like few other releases this year; I am constantly finding these riffs just churning in my head, forcing me to put down whatever I’m doing and pressing play yet again.
1: Gaerea – Mirage
To say that expectations were high after 2020’s Limbo would probably rank as one of the understatements of the year. Mirage opens with a pretty long, slow, acoustic beginning on “Memoir”; for two and a half minutes there are some whispered vocals, some minor percussion, and a lonely guitar, slowly building before exploding out of your speakers as the main gist of the song flourishes. Needless to say expectations not only met but wildly exceeded. This continues as the album weaves through its phases, most often obviously at a blistering pace but every so often slowing down for a bit, but no matter what it never disappoints; the only low point on this album is that it ends. My number one played album of the year by a mile, this album cements Gaerea as one of the greats of modern blackmetal. My unrivaled album of the year.