So here we are again. It’s December, and year end lists are flying around like shrapnel. Due to the inherent subjectivity of music it’s always interesting to see what people have made of the preceding year.
For me, I made a concerted effort to drag myself away from the depths of black metal’s always-enticing abyss to spend some more time with other genres and styles that I also love. I said something similar last year, but I feel this year I was more successful in achieving that end. Of course, I still love black metal, still listen to it constantly, and you’ll still find some great examples of the blackened arts in the list below.
2022 was a strong year for death metal for me, and I enjoyed more death metal bands in a deeper way than I have done for some time. In every year there are standout releases, but I felt this year the standard was raised throughout. Possibly I was simply more receptive to it. Either way, you’ll find more death metal-related acts, and in higher spots, in this selection than you’ll have seen in my lists for a while.
As with last year, grindcore was largely absent from my year, disappointingly, as was hardcore. Additionally, the sort of lengthy, ugly, abyssal doom that I love so much has been largely lacking too. It’s all probably out there somewhere, but I didn’t catch it.
The top two spots this year are both claimed by albums/bands/styles that I simply could not have predicted would be at the pinnacle of my list by the year’s end, (one of the bands I hadn’t even heard of in January). I hope you enjoy these excellent records even half as much as I do.
Lastly I just want to say a big thank you to any and all that might read this site. It’s only a small endeavour, and I do it purely for the love of all things METAL and to support bands that I enjoy in whatever minor way I can, but if this is you, a heartfelt thank you for enduring my scribblings.
On to it!
Obsidious – Iconic
Opening this year’s list is the progressive death metal of Obsidious. It was only in October that Iconic unleashed its torrent of modern technicality and sharp songwriting hooks, but it is an album that made a mark.
Aara – Triade II: Hemera
Aara exist where brutality and melody collide, shaping the fragments into intense slices of black metal that are uncompromising. Triade II: Hemera is serrated enough to lacerate.
Sidus Atrum – Spiral of Life
Sidus Atrum’s blackened doom is well-written and atmospheric. Spiral of Life is a well-crafted album that seems to unfold and develop the more that you delve into its deeps.
Sergeant Thunderhoof – This Sceptred Veil
This Sceptred Veil impressed with its stellar hooks and immersive atmosphere. Stoner rock can be a style easy to fall down on, but Sergeant Thunderhoof show no such clumsiness.
Sylvaine – Nova
The graceful beauty of Sylvaine’s Nova brought a blackgaze resplendence to March that stuck with me all year. This album is a post-blackened soundscape that seems sculpted from pure emotion.
Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity
Operating somewhere in the wasteland between Incantation and Immolation’s domains, yet beholden to neither, Phobophilic’s Enveloping Absurdity is an old-school death metal monster. Let this crush you in its devastating waves.
White Ward – False Light
A towering work of creativity and aggression, False Light is a post-black metal masterclass of dizzying heights, terrifying lows, and horizontal jazz excursions. An avant-garde work of art.
Messa – Close
Close is Messa’s most accomplished album yet. The band’s well-developed and individual form of modern doom is moreish and affecting, and once ensnared in the band’s grasp it’s hard to escape. Not that you’d want to.
Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade
Pushing the boundaries of avant-garde/progressive/experimental death metal in May was Aeviterne with The Ailing Facade. Truly an album to warily explore while avoiding its claws and mechanised teeth, this is a formidable slab of death metal.
Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road
Unleashed way back in January, the sheer inhuman ferocity of There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road is staggering. Wiegedood’s vicious modern black metal assault is unhinged, caustic, and very, very good.
Cult of Luna – The Long Road North
The Long Road North is yet another towering edifice of post-metal mastery from Cult of Luna, and I always knew they’d have a spot on my list. The band can apparently do no wrong.
Darkher – The Buried Storm
Darkher’s The Buried Storm takes the listener on a highly immersive journey into delicate doom folk atmosphere. This is a superlative work of beauty and melancholy.
Unru – Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten
Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten tantalises with a dark journey of multifaceted black metal for the listener to explore. Unru’s music has depth and substance, but is also delivered with an undeniable flourish of immersive style.
Nadja – Labyrinthine
Labyrinthine is an absolute beast of a record. Four colossal songs, four different singers, four expressions of extreme sludge doom drone superiority. Nadja have created something special.
Altars Ablaze – Life Desecration
What a whirlwind of violence and destruction Life Desecration is. Altars Ablaze play blackened death metal with real aggression and furious potency. This brief slab of savage brutality is perfect to just dive into over and over again.
Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture
Taking July by storm, Ashenspire released the individual and impactful Hostile Architecture, and extreme metal was never quite the same again. It’s a progressive/avant-garde/post-black metal tour de force with a sense of anger and injustice that’s as keenly felt as its striking songwriting.
Ultha – All That Has Never Been True
Ultha’s All That Has Never Been True was a malignant horror that festered and spread across time and space until it inexorably forced itself onto this list. Ultha’s malevolent black metal will not be denied. Give in.
Disillusion – Ayam
Disillusion’s sophisticated and idiosyncratic take on progressive metal grew on me like a comfortable warmth spreading throughout my body. Ayam came late in the year, but demanded attention.
Dawnwalker – House of Sand
Rich in strange atmosphere, brimming with unnerving secrets, and hiding sinister depths, House of Sand is a progressive rock exemplar of how to craft absorbing music. Dawnwalker know how to pull off a damn infectious earworm chorus too.
Lorna Shore – Pain Remains
I had never heard Lorna Shore before Pain Remains, and I never expected it to be as good as it is. This is highly enjoyable and satisfying symphonic deathcore, and I listened to this way more than I thought I would.
Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons
I confess it took me a bit longer than normal to truly appreciate what Ash in Realms of Stone Icons by Tómarúm had to offer, but once I did, I was smitten. A progressive black/death metal titan.
Kassogtha – rEvolve
Fusing modern death metal with intricate and emotive progressive metal, rEvolve was a late entrant into list territories. I’d never heard of Kassogtha before opening the promo, but I’ll never forget them now. Possibly 2022’s best kept secret.
An Abstract Illusion – Woe
Rightly receiving accolades all over town, An Abstract Illusion massively impressed with Woe. If progressive death metal is your thing, then make sure you listen to this, as it’s a rich, varied, and rewarding listen.
Once Human – Scar Weaver
The modern metal of Once Human’s Scar Weaver had a strong impact on me. Boasting galaxy-sized hooks and a deceptive level of depth, this is an album that has powered many a gym session this year.
Origin – Chaosmos
The near-relentless brutal intensity of Chaosmos is a thrilling wonder to behold. Origin’s death metal is murderous and characterful, and this is a great album from this top-tier band.
Alunah – Strange Machine
I’ve always enjoyed Alunah, but Strange Machine is exceptional. Packed with the sort of doom metal songs that will have you singing along while dancing like a fool, this is such a fun, entertaining album to listen to.
Vermilia – Ruska
When I randomly chanced upon Ruska I stumbled upon one of the best folk/black metal synthesises I’ve ever heard. The artist behind Vermilia has crafted a tapestry of standout blackened music that just keeps giving and giving.
Psycroptic – Divine Council
Psycroptic’s Divine Council is a feast of technical death metal mastery mixed with melodic power. The songs boast a formidable presence and the band are on top form throughout. Psycroptic’s newest release is highly textured, energetically charged, and shockingly good.
Greyhaven – This Bright and Beautiful World
Greyhaven came out of nowhere in April and impressed me in a way that this sort of music hasn’t for many years. Combining Poison the Well’s expressive grace and emotive hooks with Every Time I Die’s charismatic chaos and touches of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s melodic excellence, while still maintaining a personality all of its own, This Bright and Beautiful World is a post-hardcore album of the sharpest hooks and the biggest heart.
Judicator – The Majesty of Decay
Well, I didn’t start out 2022 expecting a power metal album to top my list, but here we are. I love power metal, but have drifted away from the style over the last few years as I haven’t found much to truly excite in the way that I once did. Enter Judicator. I spent most of the year with Greyhaven in my number one spot, but then November came around and Judicator floored me with their latest creation. The Majesty of Decay is simply a phenomenal album the likes of which you just don’t hear anymore. Except you do, right here, right now. The Majesty of Decay is packed with ridiculously strong songs and the entire thing sounds warm and almost tactile. This is, in my humble opinion, the best of 2022 , and I absolutely adore it.