(We’ve been enjoying Neill Jameson‘s year-end lists as they’ve arrived, and making lots of new discoveries (we hope you have too), and today we bring you his fifth and final list for 2022 at NCS.)
I don’t really look at these lists as the “best of” a certain year, per se, rather just recordings I’ve enjoyed throughout whatever calendar year it currently is. However, the last part is historically what I considered “best”, so forget whatever the fuck I just said a few words ago. These were my favorites out of everything we’ve covered thus far.
Warthog “Warthog” Toxic State Records
Three-song 7 inch of fucking hammering punk abuse. This is a hair over ten minutes of the most intense beating you’ll receive all year. D-beats, brutalizing solos, and vomited vocals, like a cross between old The Exploited with Hellhammer on a baby dick rail of speed. This is audial violence.
Niteris/Крюкокрест “Split” New Era Productions/Horrible Room
I was unfamiliar with Niteris when I picked this up but really ended up digging their ancient black metal atmosphere, reminding me a bit of the nastier Swedish demos of the early ’00s. The main appeal of this split to me was Крюкокрест, whose full length of Ildjarn through a nuclear war black metal last year still gets constant listens. Крюкокрест here continue their black/punk approach but it’s more morose this time, with a sense of impending doom just around the corner. My favorite split of the year.
Primitive Force “Beholding the Wrath” Damien Records
The Astral Serpent has another face, one seeped in hardcore. In fact, I had first met him when Krieg played with his old crusty hardcore band, Mourner, in 2012. This is his pure expression of audial violence, a belligerent banger of hardcore that would fit nicely on Youth Attack. Blistering punishment, those of you who miss Hoax would be wise to check this out. This was my favorite of his many releases this year.
Circle of Ouroborus “Thurisa” Final Agony
I could have done the research to see if this was an old, unreleased Circle of Ouroborus record, but that involves something approaching responsibility and I just can’t abide there. The second of three full lengths CoO released this year, Thurisa is close in sound to the late ’00s era of the band (Moonflares, Lost Entrance of the Just, etc.) where the guitars sound like whispering ghosts and the atmosphere is that of esoteric mysticism. In more plain terms, this is closer to ambient than metal, with some excellent synth work giving the record a more reverent feel, like worshiping in an empty cathedral. While the third full length, Autuala, was my favorite record of the year, Thurisa is a special meditation and worth seeking.
Lampir “Demo IV” Perverse Homage
Lampir (and Sanguine Relic by proxy) never clicked with me until this year. I’m not really sure why I never gave them a fair chance but now that I have I’ve been obsessed with their early-USBM tendencies and excellent synth work. Lampir reminds me a lot of Sorath/(old) Demoncy/Enkil, etc, the kind of demos that were my initial experience with USBM. He really seems to have found a production style that allows the music to stir and seethe, a certain clarity without losing any of the esoteric violence that just oozes from this demo. Physical copies were just released within the last week and, as of this writing, are still available.
This was not what I was expecting from Carved Cross. They’re normally quite abstract, almost shamantic, but this is much more than that. Meditative mid-paced black metal, this was one of those songs that, while long, you just don’t want to end. By far my favorite Carved Cross material, which says a lot since I think they’re a fucking great band, but they’ve truly created a masterpiece here. Belzebuth is in a similar vein to Leviathan’s demos, with excellent echoing vocals and razor-sharp guitars that eventually fade into droning ambient. This apparently is the project’s last gasp, and it’s excellent. Death Hymns has also released two volumes of Belzebuth’s material with the second volume just recently conjured.
Fír “Knoken & Bloed” Zwartkunst Smederij
Fír released three demos, a split 7 inch, and this EP all in 2022 and each one of them deserves a spot on my list but, unlike nearly every band I’ve spoken about, there’s very little in the way of places to stream any of them, so I’ve just included the preview video for “Knoken & Bloed”, the project’s first 7” as a taste. Fír, like Staar and Wyvern before it, is rooted in the old, mysterious raw black metal of the second wave, particularly Norway and Poland, a time when demos would evoke more than just entertaining listening. If you couldn’t follow the breadcrumbs, this is the new project of The Specter and is in line with his usual mark of quality. Tour De Garde will have copies for North America soon, pick them up alongside the return of Blood Tyrant.
Anonymous Skull “Cursing the Crimson Fog” Moonworshipper Records
Released simultaneously with Cavernous Day & Cavernous Night, Cursing… starts off with one of the greatest intros to a recording I’ve ever heard, simplistic and battering noise that would be at home next to Beherit’s ambient works. The rest of the demo is a sonic fucking journey from black metal to psychadelic hellscapes to something almost resembling old indie screamo before that scene was taken hostage by white belts and embarrassing haircuts. With all three demos this year Anonymous Skull defy characterisation, being genuinely original and impossible to nail down. It’s of some comfort to know there are still artists out there with this sense of creative adventure. Brilliant project, can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Brånd “Wo Draht Da Weg” Fallow Field/Födweg
Over the last few years Brånd has been established as one of the most special projects in the underground. Militaristic post-punk infused black metal, each successive release builds upon the foundation laid by the last, with Wo Draht Da Weg? being the strongest to date. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022 when it was announced and it ticked every box I wanted it to. Being able to envision Ildjarn fronted by Ian Curtis on May 19th, 1980 in a clove smoke filled room is an impressive feat for music to conjure. Brånd have done just that.
Tírad Dûr “Fell Light in Windy Cloud” Night of the Palemoon
I came into this with no preconceptions based on whatever subgenre journalists and Instagram “influencers” want to put it in nor any knowledge of who was involved in this (until recently) so I was able to experience it unbiased, which is the way music should be experienced anyway. Fucking harsh vocals and extremely cold riffs reminding me of the Old Wainds demo, except a lot more interesting. Really great and memorable riffs throughout, this was my favorite demo of the year.
White Medal “Promo 2022” Legion Blotan
One new song from Proctor’s most infamous child, a preview for a full length that will be released next year. A dense and malicious affair, this is doomier than I expected. If this monolithic track is any indication of how the next record will be then I’ll be talking to you about White Medal again in twelve months. Legion Blotan had an exceptional release year, with this being the cream of the crop. Total support.
Verloren “In Zalvend Onmin” Babylon Doom Cult Records
Verloren were a band I was introduced to in the early ‘00s when we played with them in Belgium. While I was exceptionally intoxicated I remembered feeling absolutely possessed by their live performance and was given their demo, which was (still is) fucking brilliant. But when they released In Zalvend Onmin I was blown away. This is one of my favorite black metal records, ever, period. Everything about it is killer, from the songs to the aesthetic to the phenomenal vocals. When Babylon Doom Cult announced they were finally giving this the vinyl treatment it felt like an old wrong was finally righted. This is black metal and it is one of the greatest records ever recorded in the style.
Old Forest “The Old, Old Forest: The Complete Demo Collection 1998-2001” Cult Never Dies
I’ve been obsessed with Old Forest since I picked up their debut album, Into the Old Forest, at Milwaukee Metalfest in 2000. This release encompasses their two demos which contain songs that would eventually become their first full length, as well as a recently unearthed demo from 2001. Some versions on here (like “Hammer of the Underworld”) are superior to their (excellent) later versions but honestly everything this band recorded during this era is flawless in my eyes. The greatest black metal band from the UK? It might make you sad, but yes.
Крошка Нетопырь и Малыш Мёртвая Голова “Волшебные Рассказы о Былом и Небывалом” Obscurant Visions/Horrible Room
Keeping up with the bands associated with Horrible Room can be a challenge, but one that’s certainly worth it. While I know the first pressing of this record came out at the end of ‘21, both the New Era repress as well as the vinyl version were released this year. Plus, fuck you, it’s my list. Anyway, this record is fucking superb black metal, dark as pitch even if the cover (and name) may lead you to believe otherwise. Reminding me a lot of Judas Iscariot musically but Крюкокрест vocally (wouldn’t be shocked if it’s the same guy) with extremely memorable songs that will dig their nails right into you. Morbid perfection, one of the best records of the last few years.
And with that we’ve come to the end. Did I miss anything? Sure fucking did. Vanum, Goatwhore, Blood Tyrant, a few of the Tour De Garde releases, more than one Horrible Room related project, Drudkh, etc. This was a difficult year to sort through because when the “Year End” list emails started floating around I could only think of half a dozen things, yet here we are a few months later and I’ve shit out thirty or forty between everywhere that’s kind enough to humor me each year.
If you stumbled on my other list you’ll know Circle of Ouroborus and (the infamous) Gehenna topped it for my favorite full lengths of the year and there wasn’t too much overlap with a lot of the other writers I’ve seen this year. Does that make my lists better? Yes. And no, I guess. Remember, this is all subjective and whatever tickles my pickle might make yours floppy and vice versa.
I’ve shit on larger lists over the years because I didn’t think anyone really thought that there were forty “best of” records in a calendar year and that it was just lip service. So why did I post so goddamned many? Because these aren’t the “best” of the year (well, this part is), rather it’s a list of things I’ve enjoyed, found value in, and wanted to use my platform to introduce to others. Hopefully you found something out of these and you’re able to support the bands and labels directly. Maybe I’ll poke my head around sometime in 2023 before the end of the year. Until then..
Thank you, Neill! Your lists are a late-year-highlight. I am allways shocked on what good stuff i missed over the year. Very much appreciated, all the best for the coming annus horribilis…