Heavy Blog Is Heavy's Top 50 Albums of 2022

2022 was a phenomenal year for music. We've compiled a list of fifty of our favorite albums from last year, including records from Artificial Brain, Chat Pile, Immolation, Wormrot, and more.

a year ago

Happy New Year, Heavy Blog readers! We hope you've had a happy holiday season! With the hustle and bustle of the end-of-year and holiday shuffle behind us, we're back to work with our (ir)regularly scheduled programming as we've been doing it over the last several months. Indeed, we're still operating under what Eden's been calling "maintenance mode," where the bulk of our editorial staff have either been busy spending time with their growing families (two Heavy Blog babies just had their first Christmases!) or dealing with the growing demand of their careers. We've always been a band of volunteers and that's unlikely to change (unless The Orchard wants to cut us a check and buy us out as well!) and year-over-year, it never gets any easier as we enter our fourteenth year(?!). But we do it for the love of music, and your encouragement keeps us going, so thanks for sticking around for so long!

Onto pressing matters: where other outlets like to get these Album of the Year deliberations done and over with as early as November – an arbitrary and antiquated vestige of print media, if you ask us – we felt it appropriate as usual to wait until after the last release day of 2022 to submit our final lists for aggregation. In the past, we've bent over backwards to build and finesse a ranking algorithm to crown a single album our Album of the Year, but in recent years we've come to the conclusion that ranking art like a contest isn't something that we hold dear to our values, so what we've elected to do instead is present an unranked list consolidating the most frequently mentioned entries in each writer's submitted list. It's not scientific or particularly interesting, but at the end of the day, we just want to celebrate and highlight our favorite music that got us through the last year. Without further ado, here's our collective top fifty albums from 2022, in alphabetical order!

-Jimmy Rowe

Aeviterne - The Ailing Facade

What an absolute banger of a year for death metal. While there are a veritable host of records from within the genre that could have been included on this list, few of them could have held a candle to Aeviterne’s debut banger The Ailing Facade. Angular and angry. Complex and corrupting. It’s everything I hope to find in a dissodeath and then some, culminating not only in one of our favorite death metal albums of 2023, but one of the best in any genre.

While The Ailing Facade contains many standout elements (the songwriting is incredibly skilled and the execution is borderline flawless), it separates itself most from its dissonant peers in its presentation. This brand of death metal often loses folks in its “impenetrable wall of sound” approach to production, but one of the principal reasons this record has stuck with me throughout the year is because it just sounds so damn good. Ian Jacyszyn and Colin Marston are gods among men behind the boards, and turned what could have been another generic audio tornado into something wildly special, allowing each cacophonous note to shine with gleeful, riotous clarity. I can remember only a few records this chaotic that sounded this excellent, and Colin Marston is attached to all of them. If you haven’t heard this record yet and you’re a fan of dissonant and avant-Garde death metal I strongly encourage you to get your life together and give The Ailing Facade a spin. You won’t regret it. Essential listening. -Jonathan Adams

Allegaeon - Damnum

I’ve written at length about this record, so I won’t beat around the bush: Damnum is Allegaeon’s best record and it’s not close. In every facet I can think of Damnum elevates the band’s already technically wondrous interpretation of death metal into something smoother, more polished, more focused, and nuanced. The departure of Riley from the band, announced a few months ago, is a huge bummer as his contributions to the band and his assistance in getting their sound to this place are undeniable. But as a final statement from this iteration of the band it’s hard to think it could have been any more perfect. The acoustic meanderings opening “Bastards of the Earth” melting into blackened tremolo chaos, the utterly spellbinding vocal cleans and guitar solos in “Of Beasts and Worms”, the chuggy technicality of “Vermin” and the blistering finale “Only Loss” stand among the greatest moments in the band’s storied discography, and whichever sonic direction they press into next, we’ll always have the brilliant Damnum to serve as an eternal career apex. -Jonathan Adams

And So I Watch You From Afar - Jettison

Seeing as this was my post-rock album of the year, it makes sense that I can write about it so many times and in other contexts (spoiler alert: it will be my number one album for Post Rock Post’s End of Year round-up). On this stage, I’d like to highlight how patient and measured this album is, succeeding where many other albums in the genre fail in carefully managing the flow of its sound. There’s no rush in Jettison but nor is there dalliance; there is, instead every rise and fall in its own time, all coming together to tell this nautical story. Oh yes, in case the album name wasn’t enough for you, the track names reveal that Jettison might just be about a singular event, in this case: a dive.

Check out the middle of the album for an example of that patience, as our hinted-at protagonist hits the bottom of their descent. Both “V Hold” and “VI Submerge” are expertly located to channel the wonder and freedom of the very bottom of the dive and you can almost picture yourself engulfed by vast blue. You’re under pressure, as both tracks are quiet ambient and atmospheric but there’s no panic there. It is, instead, replaced by a sort of calm majesty which the music helps you explore, whether it is the thumping waves heard through the water of “VI Submerge”’s build-up, the strings which herald the track’s release or “V Hold”’s deep, instrumental breath. Together, they are an instrumental break, a swirling center of the album which melds the work into a whole, just a piece of the compositional skill the band bring to bear on what is slowly becoming my favorite release of theirs. Take the plunge! -Eden Kupermintz

Altars - Ascetic Reflection

As I stated in my earlier review of Ascetic Reflection, anything Brendan Sloan touches makes me miss Convulsing that much more. But it’s pretty hard to complain when his hands are all over works as brilliant as Altars’ latest. Twisty, angular, technically astute, and never short of supremely interesting, Ascetic Reflection is a true gift to the most adventurous death metal aficionados. All parties involved put their all into this record and each track does nothing if not accentuate this fact. The performances are crisp and ever-so-slightly unhinged, making the entire record feel like it’s tilted off its axis in the best way. The guitars are jangly and intense while the robust rhythm section is absolutely fantastic (with the bass work getting a special nod here), melding perfectly with the appropriately oddball and consistently mesmerizing songwriting. It’s a delicious record that should be consumed with relish at your earliest opportunity if you have yet to succumb to Altars’ nefarious charms. Give in to the madness. You’ll be glad you did. -Jonathan Adams

An Abstract Illusion - Woe

When we premiered Woe back in early September, I knew it was something special – I just had no idea it would take off as monumentally as it did. The long-awaited follow up to 2016’s debut Illuminate The Path hit the blogwaves with a seismic impact, rocketing to the top of many an underground metalhead’s AOTY list with ease. Clearly, you can count us among the droves of rabid adherents to An Abstract Illusion’s decadent strain of progressive death metal as well. Sitting somewhere between the sonic stylings of prog metal masterminds Between The Buried And Me and Opeth, Woe would fit neatly on the shelf alongside Colors and Watershed and should be celebrated with the same enthusiasm. It cannot be overstated enough how difficult it is to craft something among those same echelons, but An Abstract Illusion have done it with humility and ease. Every second of its hour-long runtime is compelling, fresh, and daring; the atmosphere dark, deep, and mystical; the chops virtuosic and refined. This is hands down the best progressive death metal release of the year, if not the decade thus far. Please don’t make us wait another six years for more. -Calder Dougherty

Artificial Brain - Artificial Brain

It took half a decade for dissonant death metal outfit Artificial Brain to put out a follow-up to 2017’s acclaimed Infrared Horizon, but boy, was the wait ever worth it. The formula on the self-titled Artificial Brain is, of course, unchanged: write over-the-top, atonal death metal, and shoot it into space. We’re thus once again presented with the two-guitar onslaught of twisting riffs, bellowing alien-like gurgles, and a furious rhythm section driving the action from minute one, but the result is still as fresh and powerful as it was on the band’s prior releases, burrowing into the listener’s mind with just as much aplomb. “Glitch Cannon” and “Celestial Cyst” showcase Dan Gargiulo and co.’s meticulous chops at their finest, while the awe-inspiring “A Lofty Grave” experiments with adding keys and synth overtones into the mix to incredible effect. As cerebral as it is crushing, Artificial Brain’s third record lives up to the standards of its predecessors and then some, and cements the band’s discography as one of the most consistent in modern death metal. -Ahmed Hasan

Ashenspire - Hostile Architecture

Forgive me but I can’t resist saying that singing the praises of a band before they blow up is one of my favorite things on the planet. Not because I get to feel smug; who knows who I am even? It’s more because I can then sit back and watch people who have often become my friends enjoy the popularity and adoration that I’ve always known they deserve. Such is the case with Ashenspire, who’s Hostile Architecture is getting the praise their unique style of avant garde black metal deserves. Furious lyrics, explosive instruments, heart-breaking strings, and a political passion which is hard to resist have all blended together to make one of 2022’s finer black metal albums and one which continues the exposure of the musical mainstream to the joys and potentials of the genre. -Eden Kupermintz

Astronoid - Radiant Bloom

In a world where genres, subgenres, and increasingly specific microgenres are automatically created by algorithms clustering data points for sale, some bands still defy classification. There might be shared inspiration or elements across their work, but their sound remains entirely unique. Massachusetts-based Astronoid falls unambiguously in this non-category. Since their debut EP in 2011, the quartet has garnered a cult following for their distinctive dream thrash. Released in June this year, Radiant Bloom is the emotive next chapter for a talented group that’s perfected their sound.

Radiant Bloom, like its gorgeous cover art, is an exercise in delightful, ethereal dreamscapes. Like the rest of Astronoid’s discography, it defies clear classification. It’s close to post-black metal or blackgaze, but without the black metal; shoegaze, but heavier. Contemplate the possible influences/inspirations/peers for too long, and risk getting lost in the fog of nouns. Instead, I offer a counterproposal: Astronoid and Radiant Bloom are a vibe. A beautiful vibe that’s both dreamy and vibrant, like the perfect sunny day. Radiant Bloom is so melodic that you can practically feel the serotonin rushing to your brain, but the ethereal elements are grounded with enough heaviness that you can still feel your feet on the ground. It’s spacious, pastel, and intense all at once, and that’s all we ever wanted from Astronoid. -Bridget Hughes

Asunojokei - Island

Asunojokei are one of Japan’s finest contributions to both blackgaze and the greater metal scene in general right now. They broke out back in 2018 with their debut わたしと私だったもの (Awakening), but 2022’s Island grows and improves on everything that made that stand out in itself. Not afraid to lean into their own culture, there’s touches of some uplifting J-rock enthusiasm here to mix things up, as well as lighter melodic moments closer to post-hardcore. A refreshing contrast from the sorrowful dreariness blackgaze is often known for. Vocally, it’s not too unlike their contemporaries in Envy, leaning into that emotive-screamo sound. But it’s that general bittersweet dynamic that’s the real bright spot here. Fittingly this album was released in the peak of summer for me, as their warm, soothing approach to the genre akin to Sunbather, contrasts brilliantly with the blast beats, pained emotion and general post-metalisms of their writing. Managing to escape much of the redundancy and derivation plaguing blackgaze of late, Asunojokei’s Island is one in the genre not to miss. -Trent Bos

Autonoesis - Moon of Foul Magics

Bands usually drop new records with fanfare. Even the smallest bands market themselves and have a following. While Autonoesis does have a following, much about them is wrapped up in mystery simply from a lack of acting upon that following. Moon of Foul Magics similarly released with little build-up, so I’m pretty stunned to be writing about it right now. Cosmic blackened death metal shrouded in this kind of enigma would be fascinating enough on its own, but luckily for us this record is mind-blowing. The technical ability, songwriting talent, and aura of Autonoesis demands you to listen to Moon. It’s a brilliant package of what progressive metal can do especially when it dabbles with the more extreme elements of the genre. I continue to be impressed by this one no matter how many times I go through it. It’s always bringing something new for me, so I’ll keep working to unravel the puzzle. -Pete Williams

Birds In Row - Gris Klein

No album captivated and had me coming back to it this year quite like Birds in Row’s Gris Klein. An album symbolizing the colour, or lack thereof, of depression. This is channeled through the French quartet’s emotionally charged blend of hardcore punk, screamo and post-hardcore, like somewhere between Touche Amore and Portrayal of Guilt. Be it the pulsating rhythms and creative and liberal use of guitar effects pedals, or the infectious rage and frustration of the vocalists, there's something about this that just sinks its teeth into you and refuses to let go. The palpable disdain for everything comes through both in the lyrics and the delivery, yet it’s matched by a sort of confident arrogance that’s plain fun.

While these aspects are all a draw on their own, their ability to put everything together to be more than the sum of their parts is where this really shines. This is evident in both their song structures, and the album structure itself. Gris Klein has probably the best song-transitions I heard this year, while also paying fine detail to the song-ordering. It makes the album feel like one continuous movement that's hard to not listen to start to finish. Highly recommend checking out the live-studio video of “Noah” into “Cathedrals” for a great example of this, and it’s just a fucking stellar performance. Birds in Row are a band at the top of their game right now with no signs of stopping. They’ve been in the studio just recently recording something new with Coilguns, so stay tuned for that. -Trent Bos

Blut Aus Nord - Disharmonium - Undreamable Abysses

French forebears of avant garde black metal Blut Aus Nord have been on a winning streak over the last few years as the band explores their more spacious and psychedelic impulses. Picking up where their celebrated and on-the-nose 2019 record Hallucinogen left off, Disharmonium - Undreamable Abysses sees this enigmatic band offering swirling meditations on Lovecraftian horror. These nightmarish scores churn dark beds of ambient black metal, dripping with the band’s unique penchant for the weird and experimental. This record is densely textured, and it's easy to get lost in the void as the band offer ample space for the rush of blasts and effects-laden guitar layers to ruminate. This won't be an album for everyone, but if you're in the mood for some ethereal wooshing, Disharmonium is the record for you. -Jimmy Rowe

The Callous Daoboys - Celebrity Therapist

This sophomore full-length from Atlanta mathcore collective The Callous Daoboys has likely cemented their role at the forefront of the movement as it sees a revival snowballing year over year since The Dillinger Escape Plan’s dissolution in 2017. Inevitable comparisons to Dillinger are far too easy and have been made time and time again over the year from this outlet and others, and the band’s willingness to place broader alternative influences against the off-kilter stabbing of mathcore just makes the task easier. Celebrity Therapist is Miss Machine for a generation of music fans who grew up with Panic! At the Disco instead of Faith No More, and that’s not to their detriment. In fact, the Daoboys have perhaps crafted the single most emotionally and creatively compelling mathcore record since Miss Machine in 2004, even through the enigmatic and often impenetrable lyrics. The anti-MAGA vitriol on “Violent Astrology” is enough to put elbows through the windshields of pickup trucks, whereas “Title Track” is a complex yet vulnerable alt metal opus, and don’t be surprised by horns, keyboards, and violins littering the landscape to heighten the avant garde impulses. Mathcore’s back, baby, and The Callous Daoboys are the new faces of it. -Jimmy Rowe

Cave In - Heavy Pendulum

These Boston legends continue to write one of the most unique stories of the past quarter century-plus in heavy music. They’ve helped lay the foundation for metalcore, taken a 180 degree turn into space-rock just as they’d built up huge buzz in metal circles, teetered on the edge of disappearing entirely, returned with a series of challenging yet acclaimed releases, lost a beloved original member, and now have somehow shown up in 2022 with what might be their finest record to date. Heavy Pendulum feels like the coalescence of every road they’ve traveled, and even for as broadly as those paths have diverged from one another over the years, this LP is not only cohesive, but consistently brilliant. That’s no small feat considering the 70-minute running time, but there’s more than enough diversity track-to-track to keep things plenty exciting and engaging, There are throwback ragers (“New Reality,” “Careless Offering,” and “Amaranthine,”) slow-burning rockers (“Heavy Pendulum,” “Blinded By A Blaze,” and “Nightmare Eyes”), and tracks that find a really satisfying middle ground between the two (“Waiting For Love,” and “Blood Spiller”). And even when certain compositions lean into sillier elements (“Floating Skulls”) or lofty ambitiousness (“Wavering Angel”), it somehow results in the best material on the record, against all odds. But “against all odds” defines a good deal of Cave In’s career and its successes. This is just what they do, and they’ve clearly landed on a strong formula for continuing and even expanding on the quality of their music as they edge closer to 30 years on the scene. -David Zeidler

Chat Pile - God's Country

If any band on this list can claim the mantle of extreme music’s 2022 breakout stars, it’s Chat Pile. Oklahoma’s up-and-coming noise rock outfit released what is not only one of metal’s most hyped albums of this year, but one of the most talked-about records in the broader music nerd circles online, landing on genre-agnostic best-of lists from Anthony Fantano and Pitchfork alike. Capitalizing on a run of EPs in 2019 that garnered the act a cult following, the band finally unleashed their debut album God’s Country in 2022, a familiarly dystopian record that pairs influences from Korn and The Jesus Lizard in what ultimately amounts to a sludge metal opus with gripping ruminations on homelessness, addiction, violent crime, and mental illness, serving as a reflection of the environment from which it had been borne; a dressing-down and dissection of the dichotomy of holier-than-thou religiosity and the social ills that seem embedded in its periphery. God’s Country is at times genuinely frightening, between frontman Raygun Busch’s half-spoken, half-howled musings, Godflesh-style drum-and-bass grooves, and multi-textural guitars shrieking, humming, and grinding where appropriate. God’s Country is hideous by design, but nonetheless incredibly thoughtful and experimental in a way that will undoubtedly mark it as an all-time classic. -Jimmy Rowe

Chrome Ghost - House of Falling Ash

There was a LOT of great doom released in 2022, but nothing really sparked a fire in me quite like Chrome Ghost’s House of Falling Ash. It’s cliché to say they’ve “found themselves” on this outing, but their latest builds upon their fantastic (and grossly underappreciated) 2019 outing The Diving Bell in every way. The special little something this trio finds on their latest is not unlike that of many others in recent years: an embrace of folksy, Americana sounds of things to offset their back-breakingly heavier facets. It’s a great pairing, and they similarly use it to dramatic, powerful effect.

Now, with such great power comes great responsibility. Fortunately, these dudes are as wise as they are punishing. I haven’t heard anyone navigate crushing post-/doom dynamics quite like this since Neurosis, full stop. Jake Kilgore’s vocals are especially noteworthy in this aspect, never souring a moment of their exquisite and adventurous compositions featuring distinctive textures by way of pedal steel, synths, and more. The interludes are welcome breathers from the downright beastly other offerings, developing both variety and complexity. At times tender, dismal, and weary, but always authentically so, fans of Inter Arma, YOB, and the somber sludgy ilk will easily connect with the poetic catharsis here for some time to come. -Jordan Jerabek

Coheed and Cambria - Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind

I’ll be the first to admit, I was a skeptic. Coheed and Cambria has been my favorite band for close to twenty years, but I wasn’t sure they had it in them. To come out at this advanced a stage of their career and unveil plans for a five-album conceptual arc felt wildly ambitious even for a band as great as they are, especially when one considers the reality that, although they’ve never released anything even close to a bad album, their best ones came in the mid-2000’s. Then The Unheavenly Creatures dropped and just killed, standing as their finest work since No World For Tomorrow, but still, could they pull off four more of these things? What is that, a ten year cycle? Could they maintain a high level of quality into their fifties? Then the Vaxis II rollout began and I thought “ok, here we go. This is where the wheels start to fall off.” The singles felt just okay, and the track list was overrun by 3-minute songs, not exactly a Coheed trademark. How could they possibly achieve the kind of complexity and expansiveness that has defined their best work in such short time frames? So, when Vaxis II finally emerged in June, I went into it like a sports fan whose team is in the midst of a perfect season; in all my anxiety waiting for the other shoe to drop, it was nearly impossible to enjoy the experience.

Flash forward to yesterday: it was the first time I’d revisited the album since its first week in the world, and as has been the case with a number of their releases over the past decade, it was ultimately a matter of putting some distance between myself and the material after my initial experience. Suddenly, the singles made more sense in the context of the songs around them, and I was finally able to recognize that, while this may not be Good Apollo, it’s still got more bangers than pretty much anything else I’ve heard this year. Claudio Sanchez’s songwriting ability is supernatural. The guy has written more legit hooks in the past twenty years than Drake, Taylor Swift, and Pharrell Williams combined, and I’m only half kidding, or maybe not kidding at all, when I say that. High praise is due to Travis Stever, Josh Eppard, and Zach Cooper for bringing that vision to life with the kind of power and precision it demands.

They could present as a tough nut to crack if you’re coming to their catalog for the first time in 2022, what with the insanely intricate world Sanchez has built over nine full-on concept albums, but the beauty of Coheed and Cambria is that you don’t have to give a single shit about the story to become immersed in the music. They’ve got all the prog chops and post-hardcore edge you need, all tied together with the strongest pop sensibilities to ever emerge from this realm of the music world. It’s early January, and I’m typically not much for resolutions, but I’m going to make one right now in declaring that the next time Coheed releases an album I’m going to do my best to just sit back and enjoy the ride, comfortable with the knowledge that these guys are still the best band in the world. -David Zeidler

Cult of Luna - The Long Road North

Over the last 20 years Cult of Luna have established themselves as a behemoth of post metal, crafting one excellent record after another with a truly impressive level of consistency. Plaudits have deservedly come their way throughout their career and crescendoed with the release of Mariner in 2016. Yet, despite the fanfare, Cult of Luna were not a band that ever clicked for me. I could appreciate their work, but finding a post metal record I truly enjoy from anyone, genre stalwart or otherwise, always felt like searching for a needle in a haystack. Well, after years of digging around I’ve finally found my needle: and it’s called The Long Road North.

From the moment the Inception-style horns blared on the opening moments of the instant classic that is “Cold Burn” I was hooked. Those horns set the scene for what was about to come: the ambition, the grand scale, the experimentation, and beyond all the the power and sheer weight of these nine songs. Colossal riffs battle orchestral arrangements amidst pounding drums and roaring vocals. The crunching guitars bludgeon the listener, hitting in waves before allowing respite, pulling back to lighter tremolo-picked riffs before building to greater heights before crashing back to devastating lows.

But it doesn’t end there, we also have the gorgeous vocals of Mariam Wallentin on “Beyond I” to offer a point of contrast, keeping the listener on their toes while nodding back to a part of what made Mariner so well received. Further, Colin Stetson lends his inimitable saxophone playing to not one, but two songs. These collaborations add new and unexpected dimensions, ensuring sufficient variety so satisfy lovers of progressive and experimental music as well as fans of post metal. And really, that sums up what Cult of Luna have achieved with The Long Road North. The veterans have stayed true to their past and delivered a record that enthralls their legions of existing fans all while experimenting enough to win over entirely new ones. They sound as hungry and as inspired as ever and I can’t wait to hear where they take their sound next. -Karlo Doroc

The Dear Hunter - Antimai

I have many dreams, some of them about music. My most common musical dream is that a certain band moves to make music in a style similar to what they’ve always done but just slightly to the side. Sounds oddly specific, right? But if you think about it, what is more tantanlizingly out of reach than a band that you almost love dearly? You feel the promise there, but you can’t fully commit but if only they were to change their sound a bit (a bit because you do love most of what’s there). That was my story with The Dear Hunter during the Acts cycle; I really like most of those albums (and I love Act IV) but I was never able to fully commit myself to the sound. Probably because I don’t really like indie rock or for whatever reason.

In any case, that is all in the past because, lo and behold, my dream came true and The Dear Hunter have made a full on, grandiose, and concept-driven progressive rock album and, sure enough, it’s my favorite album by them, ever. Antimai leaves behind a lot of the more fragile sounds of The Dear Hunter’s past career. It careens full gauge into massive, sweeping, and funky as all hell progressive rock extrapolations on the already orchestral side that made up half of what The Dear hunter was about. More importantly, it doubles down on the already present social critiques that bubbled underneath the surface of the Acts cycle, painting a compelling and intricate story of a made up city much like our own society. Put excellent lyrics, irresistible groove, and a penchant to fly off the handle of expectations and you get one of my favorite albums of 2022. -Eden Kupermintz

Doldrum - The Knocking, Or the Story of the Sound That Preceded Their Disappearance

It seems like there’s so much new black metal every year, and while much of it kicks ass, I don’t feel like the crazy volume has lent itself to fresh, interesting output like this debut from Doldrum. The Knocking… rectifies this gripe perfectly with an Americana-tinged black metal bang. The hollered vocals crystallize the creepy folklore concept without corpsepainted desperation, and the gritty, almost twangy tones feel as twisted and demented as each tale therein unravels. It’s genuinely unsettling, while other blackened derivatives spin their tires on samey tropes. I didn’t think the execution of this concept would make much of a difference, but the experience is so unique and distinct, it’s hard not to notice that these guys are onto the kind of thing that’ll have ‘em sticking around for a while. There’s just nothing quite like this.

It’s masterfully produced and sounds as singular as anything I’ve heard in quite some time, interestingly folkifying a progressive spin on black metal. It’s Opeth-y in its artful craft with attention to atmosphere as well as intensity, and yet The Knocking… doesn’t lack the unhinged, erratic edge that makes a temperamental black metal record so satisfying. The instrumentation pulls everything together perfectly, needling into obscure crevasses and twisting through labyrinthine structures with ease. It’s brainy without beating listeners over the head about it (thank goodness), instead using songwriting to creatively augment their storytelling, wandering listeners into the murkiest, strangest depths the genre has to offer. -Jordan Jerabek

Dreadnought - The Endless

On Heavy Blog, we obviously love our extreme bands playing those genre sounds. But I’ve noticed that what we really love the most is when a record goes far beyond the pulp. Music we love the most transcends those labels, which is why Dreadnought records tend to always make these lists. The Endless is the newest Dreadnought record to make that journey. Each track makes the record feel very much like music that doesn’t need a label. Progressive in every sense of the term, the band creates music that defies expectation time and time again. Each member of the band also provides their fair share to the atmosphere on the record. It’s of course super fun to hear awesome riffs, but a band meshing their instruments together is far more intriguing to us. Dreadnought embodies these thoughts throughout The Endless and makes each track more interesting than the last. If you haven’t listened yet, you’re severely missing out. -Pete Williams

Elder - Innate Passage

Here I find myself once again, sitting down to write love-words for what is possibly my favorite contemporary band. I have said this before and I will say it again: I really don’t know how Elder keep doing it, constantly pushing their sound forward without losing an inch of quality. On Innate Passage that forwards motion actually involves a lot of looking backwards, returning to the core of their once-elaborate sound and fusing it with their more contemporary heaviness and psychedelic approach. The end result is my number two album of the year, from an act who has not strayed from my top ten in half a decade now. Riffs, solos, synths, compositions both expansive and tightly groovy, all blend into yet another bold and extremely accomplished step into the future of this band. I really can’t wait to see where they go next. -Eden Kupermintz

Ernia - How to Deal with Life and Fail

When your lineup includes members of brutal death metal heavyweights Wormed and your new album is being released by everyone’s favorite indie label Transcending Obscurity, you have some big shoes to fill before a single song drops. Yet Spanish deathgrind quartet Ernia blew away expectations with their first full-length album, How to Deal with Life and Fail.

Chaotic and cathartic, How to Deal with Life and Fail is a neck-breaking whirlwind of furious grindcore mixed with bludgeoning riffs. Though most songs max out somewhere between 1.5 - 2.5 minutes, Ernia packs a devastating array of technicality and detail into 33 minutes. Death metal fans will find endless joy in the maze of riffs that scream Wormed-level brutality, while tech death fiends and mathcore addicts will lose themselves in Ernia’s impressively complex and catchy songwriting. In “Frustration Theory” alone, listeners are treated to a borderline doom/sludge opening wail accompanied by pummeling riffs, only to risk whiplash trying to keep up with the breakneck drumming. Survive the first 12 songs without serious injury? Prepare to have your soul crushed by “Ikigai,” the 6-minute concluding monster that would have risked being filler if performed by anyone else. Cerebral, brutal, and utterly intense How to Deal with Life and Fail manages to incorporate something for every strain of metalhead without sacrificing an iota of devastation or losing the plot. -Bridget Hughes

Fallujah - Empyrean

San Francisco’s own Fallujah released the next iteration of their distinctive atmospheric death metal with Empyrean, their fifth studio album. A long-time favorite of many here at Heavy Blog, what’s most impressive about Fallujah is how they continue to get better and better over time. Despite a multitude of lineup changes leaving the band with just founding guitarist Scott Carstairs and drummer Andrew Baird after the release of their sophomore album, Fallujah has definitely rebuilt and re-emerged stronger than ever.

Like the calm after a storm, the chaotic rebirth of the band seems to have pushed Fallujah to heights. Empyrean resumes Fallujah’s journey right where it should be: artfully marrying lush dreampop and shoegaze elements with eye-popping tech death songwriting. Newly appointed vocalist Kyle Schaefer (of Archeologist fame) adds a gut-punching mix of harsh and clean vocals that ups the melodic ante without abandoning the death metal side of their sound. The contrast with Baird’s furious and incredibly tight performance as well as a devastating death metal base presents as an undeniable force that grounds the entire record. That balance is perhaps the best summary of why Empyrean is so impressive: every element needed to be in complete agreement to create something so much greater than the sum of seemingly disparate influences.

Fallujah has always distinguished itself as an innovative prog metal force, but with Empyrean, the reborn band has finally found the perfect balance of ambiance and aggression for their ambitious sound. Ethereal, forceful, and emotional, Empyrean is the full manifestation of atmospheric death metal. -Bridget Hughes

Fit For an Autopsy – Oh What the Future Holds

Oh What the Future Holds has remained my album of the year since January and will continue to hold a prominent position for years to come. While bands like Whitechapel or even Suicide Silence have sought to progress deathcore by bringing in elements from outside genres and making them the centrepiece of their sound, Fit For an Autopsy have managed to weave genuinely progressive structures and textures into their songwriting while still maintaining a distinctly deathcore aesthetic. The consistency and memorability of the songwriting is utterly unparalleled within their genre. “Two Towers,” “A Higher Level of Hate,” “Far From Heaven,” “Pandora,” “Savages” and the rest all boast memorable riffs and choruses, but also bridges, breakdowns and melodies that stick in the mind long after listening and continue to exhilarate upon each and every revisit.  It’s also ridiculously heavy. Every one of the many nods toward Mastodon-ian atmospherics littered throughout Oh What the Future Holds is both followed and preceded by an array of utterly colossal barrage of riffs that make Thy Art is Murder look like a bunch of cuddly guinea pigs. Not only is Oh What the Future Holds crowning achievement of Fit For an Autopsy’s career so far, but it may well be the best deathcore record released by any band to date. Truly an album for the ages. –Joshua Bulleid

Gospel - The Loser

Gospel arrived and disappeared while the 2000s screamo scene was in full-swing, releasing their uniquely prog-fueled landmark debut The Moon is A Dead World in the same year as other now genre staples, such as Daitro's Laisser Vivre Les Squelettes, and Funeral Diner's The Underdark. Then, they disappeared. For 17 years. Conveniently, they’ve returned while the screamo genre itself is having a bit of a renaissance, and Gospel haven’t missed a step. The now middle-aged screamo 4-piece are a bit more ragged, with intense lyrics hinting at the years gone by as the noise rock influenced, deranged-rambling-style vocals bring a passionate, anxious energy to what is arguably more a prog rock album than screamo. However, this sort of raw emotion is something that prog frequently lacks, and as incredible as the instrumentation is here, that manic energy pushes this to another level.

Did I mention the prog? Cause this progs. Like, your dad’s prog. Big 70s energy, carried frequently by the incredible keyboard performance. The keys largely take the form of a synth-organ, really upping that 70s feel while also giving credence to their band name. The shredding guitars, often dual-wielding solos with the keyboard isn’t anything to scoff at either. And the bass and drumming do an impressive job of not letting the above-mentioned virtuosity go too astray. In a year of great comebacks, Gospel’s The Loser is arguably the best. -Trent Bos

Hammers of Misfortune - Overtaker

This is what sci-fi thrash deserves to sound like. It’s technical, it’s alien, it’s fucking Hammers of Misfortune, and somehow, they’ve never sounded quite this good. Pushing everything to lightspeed has ‘em as fast and furious as ever. Shreds abound, incredible leaps from blistering speed to anthemic rallies to epic, triumphantly soaring choirs; everything is really turned up to eleven here and it consistently shines because of this unrelenting attitude and performance. The hooks aren’t quite as sticky as they’ve been on albums passed, but the exchange in intensity comes off as an incredibly favorable trade. After all, why bother trying to out-do the perfection achieved on previous releases? This sense of newness and focus on their expeditious new direction is revitalizing, yet familiar. Overtaker is a compelling progressive headbanger riddled with loads of 70s synthy nods, fist-pumping harmonies, and the likes of which human ears have never before been able to familiarize themselves with.

Few albums this year have the kind of octane Hammers are burning on here, and the dazzling musicianship gets every drop out of these 45 minutes. It’s not as mind-numbingly technical as your standard tech deck faire, and it’s precisely why Overtaker is as bingeable as a thrash album can get. It’s so tastefully composed (and sequenced), it’s really hard not to get back on this ride after all the exhilarating twists and turns. Keeping up with Hammers can be a little challenge with such breakneck delivery, but got damn does it pay off. It sounds like falling in love with metal all over again, tapping into that “holy fuck, this is so cool!” core memory again and again. How can’t you love that? -Jordan Jerabek

Hath - All That Was Promised

Death metal is a crowded genre, arguably to the point of oversaturation. With so many well established bands heading an endless horde of new entrants it’s increasingly difficult to stand out. Unless of course, you’re Hath. From the moment this New Jersey quartet burst onto the scene with their phenomenal 2019 debut Of Rot and Ruin they had planted their stakes into the ground and carved a niche unto their own among the throng. Immediately distinctive, they have managed to weave together their swathe of influences whilst forging a sonic identity wholly their own. On All That Was Promised they continue to blaze that trail, bringing back their bleak and punishing signature while continuing to experiment.

The blistering, technical riffage we’ve come to love and expect makes up the core of the album, flicking between blackened tremolo-picked destruction and filthy grooves with ease. The vocals are as aggressive as ever, though we also have occasional cleans to lend some variety. Whilst we’ve lost (I hope temporarily) many of the acoustic elements present in the debut, here we occasionally have some lovely synths sitting beneath the violence to add a progressive rock flavour to the composition. It’s Hath as you know them, but more refined and purposeful in their delivery.

With All That Was Promised Hath have replaced the wooden stakes they planted three years ago with an entire fort, towering above the crowd and showcasing for all to see that they mean business and are here to stay. The death metal world can’t help but stop and take notice: for it is Hath’s world now and boy am I pleased to be living in it. -Karlo Doroc

He Is Legend - Endless Hallway

I don’t know how many He Is Legend fanpeople are left in the world, but I’m all of them. The fairy tale and horror-focused Myspace metalcore darlings turned southern rock stalwarts hit a pretty weird stride in the middle of their career after It Hates You, spending a few rocky years throwing ideas at the wall with little success. With 2019’s White Bat, the group found their groove again in a concept album about an original serial killer pinned to chaotic blues riffs and the vigor of a new, younger drummer. One of the final ‘big’ releases of 2022, Endless Hallway might not have had enough time to seep into the collective consciousness yet, but it’s undoubtedly another career-defining achievement twenty years into their run.

Guitarist and principal songwriter Adam Tanbouz has long been one of the most critically underrated riff generators in the scene, and Endless Hallway is no different. The Every Time I Die flair has evolved into straight up redneck Meshuggah in parts, decked in all the filthy southern grime he’s so deft at infusing. Even in pushing the hard parts harder, He Is Legend’s long mastery of melody is still front and center, with Schuylar Croom’s gravelly croon leading the charge over Matty Williams’ delectable basslines. We also get part five? Six? (I need to do a proper deep dive one of these days) in their Gardener series, which began long ago with I Am Hollywood’s “China White”. I need a full concept album about their magical realist serial killer who plants his victims and traps their consciousness in roses and vines to suffer, forever frozen in botanical stasis. Gimme that. -Calder Dougherty

Holy Fawn - Dimensional Bleed

These Arizonians have soared from unknown to word-of-mouth legends to a legitimate global force over the past six or so years, with each successive release pushing them closer to the top tier of modern heavy music. So far they’ve shown no sign that any stage is too big for them, which makes sense because they’re one of those special bands who arrived strikingly fully-formed yet ever humble, a solid indicator of a collective that knows exactly what they want to do and how to do it. They continue to master their trade on Dimensional Bleed, which showcases a richly textured and impressively intuitive blend of Earth-scorching heaviness and bewitching atmospherics that is wholly singular. Each song unfolds like an intoxicating mist that you breathe in and become blissfully lost inside of. But what pulls it all together is Ryan Osterman and co.’s deft understanding of pop sensibilities and melodic hooks. Of course, there’s nothing “pop” about Holy Fawn, but even as their music retains a certain hazy, unknowable quality, it also provides the listener with a number of euphonious earworms that stand out as the memorable elements that reel you back in again and again. This is the key to Holy Fawn’s magic spell - music that is seductively uncanny yet unexpectedly approachable. -David Zeidler

Humanotone - A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand

This year was really the year of progressive stoner rock for me and the album which unleashed my appetite for the sub-genre (never very far from my taste buds) was Humanotone’s A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand. It’s also my album of the year. It’s also a one man project from Chile. It’s also one of the most anguishing, beautiful, and majestic albums I’ve ever heard. It does such an amazing job of weaving all of its elements (heart-wrenching vocals, big, groovy riffs, incredibly rich synths, sweeping compositions) into a cohesive, maintainable, and listenable whole. It really is a masterpiece; it really is extremely underrated; it really is a beautiful gift to us, to lovers of music, to the sea, to those who are lost, to those who still hope. It really is my Album of the Year. -Eden Kupermintz

Immolation - Acts of God

Few things beat old school death metal raging against organized religion. So we got lucky this year that Immolation’s latest, Acts of God, is a hell of a banger. It’s more than just riffs and rhythms, too. Every track feels like taking a masterclass in death metal. The band continues their dive into lush progressive-style songwriting, adding layer upon layer to each of their tracks and painting quite a picture of the depths of death metal enlightenment. Both melodic and brutal, Immolation continues to show us why they’re considered masters. -Pete Williams

In-Dreamview - Spires

I have extolled the (many) virtues of this album multiple times on the blog before and you can go and read those musings on cities, buildings, and the musical capability to conjure them to get a better idea of the conceptual goals of this album. But it’s worth also delaying on the “practical” ways in which this album rules, namely the instrumentation itself, devoid of its concept. I’ve recently been listening to this album a lot again and what escaped me the last few times around is how well the Jaga Jazzist like bass works with the drums and the piano to create a sort of warm underbelly to Spires’s moving post-rock. In retrospect, it’s perhaps why I gravitated so strongly to this release when it first dropped, without even understanding why. It ties the whole album together and gives it the springboard from which to achieve its lofty ideas, much like the bass itself is the springboard “on top of which” the many scintillating, percussive instruments of the album reside. -Eden Kupermintz

Ithaca - They Fear Us

It brings me so much joy to report that 2022 was the breakout year for Euro metalcore magnates Ithaca, whose debut album The Language of Injury caught the intrigued ear of every journo and critic in the northern hemisphere. Where Language was chock full of crusty, rough-hewn edges, They Fear Us is perhaps the ideal modern metalcore record. Brightly produced and written with the surety of artists who have honed in on their voice, Ithaca straddle the dual waves of waxing old school metalcore revival and waning djent-pop, finding the Goldilocks zone with zeal and panache. Proggy fret-weaving riffs and punchy, propulsive rhythms underscore the superstar performance of frontwoman Djamila Boden Azzouz, whose scathing lyrics take aim at misogyny, self-image, and the power structures we all wish to topple. They Fear Us is a no-skip opus culminating in the most beautiful ode to early ‘90s synthpop and soul written by a heavy band in “Hold, Be Held”; though to be fair, I don’t think anyone’s even attempted one in the first place, nor will they ever need to now. Ithaca can do no wrong in my eyes. No notes. -Calder Dougherty

Messa - Close

Happily for me, 2022 was (amongst a lot of other things) the year of potential made manifest. Many bands took what was already a great sound and pushed its envelope into all sorts of new places, really delivering on the promise of their previous releases. Messa is a fantastic example of this; while I absolutely adored Belfry and Feast for Water, Close from 2022 is on a whole other level. There’s a ferocity to it, resting in its more doom-y sections only to explode on its faster riffs with no stopping it.

Check out “Dark Horse” for example, the second track from the release. That central guitar riff, backed up by some absolutely deadly accurate work on the drums, and the yowling, wounded-animal timbre of the vocals just electrify the whole thing. It’s a good opening, or second, shot for the album as it ducks and weaves amidst this new found fervor that Messa have gowned themselves in for this release. If you’ve always wanted this band to fully let loose then Close is the album for you; it’s one of the more energetic releases in the doom and stoner spaces of the year. -Eden Kupermintz

Moon Tooth - Phototroph

It took me a full listen to fully fall in love with Moon Tooth’s Phototroph when it first released but ever since that first encounter, it has never strayed far from my spin list. It took that first listen for a few different reasons. I wanted to grasp the album’s cohesion and see whether Moon Tooth can maintain its balance all the way through (they can), but in retrospect it was mostly because the last, self-titled track kicks so much ass.

“Phototroph” is probably my song of the year, distilling what makes the album itself so much fun. Its bouncy riffs, infectious vocals, and downright addictive choruses have been banging around in my skull for the entire year and make it really easy to explain why this album works. It takes the previous Moon Tooth penchant for progressive complexity and melds it with evocative, flamboyant, arena-filling rock in a way that is just (at least for me) extremely hard to resist. Sure, the album has heavier and more challenging ideas but it’s always this undercurrent of joy and exuberance that keeps me coming back to it. -Eden Kupermintz

Onsegen Ensemble - Realms

It falls to me, time and time again, to sing the praises of one of this year’s most underrated albums. A blessing? A curse? Certainly a mix of both, because I adore listening to this album as much as I can but also wish that more people would join me in its worship. There were heavier albums in 2022. There were more moving ones as well. But there were no albums more expansive than Onségen Ensemble Realms, the most grandiose, progressive, and ambitious album of the year.

It is quite shocking, even as I listen to this album for the nth time, to find out just how much is in this release and how well it is written. For example, I completely forgot about “Abysmal Sun” and its almost Western flick like feeling of stretching horizons, with its deep-seated and evocative choir and redolent synths. Those same choirs return later on during “The Ground of Being” but this time they are accompanied by melancholic and nostalgia dripping brass instruments and incisive percussion work. There’s ocarina, didgeridoo, mellotron, and many more instruments here. There are moving lyrics and unfurling soundscapes. In short, there is excellent progressive, psychedelic, extremely well made rock here. There is a sleeper album from 2022 which I will do my utmost best to get out there. Listen to this album! -Eden Kupermintz'redead - Sugar Rot

Queer mathcore and cybergrind have been making a huge surge this year, and’redead sits comfortably as one of the standouts bridging the gap. The trio, who self-label as ‘danceviolence’, stuff the sassy, off-kilter jazz of The Number Twelve Looks Like You into a blender of saccharine hyperpop synths and retro glitch noise, pour it down the gullet of a Callous Daoboys fan, and blast them out of a toy cannon into the horizon like a cartoon. The resulting puke found next to the poor projectile looks a lot like the album’s cover, smells like white Monster and Benadryl, and emits an alien glow in odd time signatures. For a debut full-length from such a small group, they sound big and sure of themselves, and clearly have something to prove. We may well be witnessing the birth of one of the new leaders in prestige mathcore, and I can’t wait to see where the next album takes them. -Calder Dougherty

Revocation - Netherheaven

At some point you just have to ask yourself: are Revocation ever going to miss? Where many a metal band tends to let up on the heaviness over the years, Revocation’s death-thrash blend has increasingly leaned on the former subgenre to incredible results as of late, with Netherheaven proving no exception. The album picks up where 2018’s The Outer Ones left off, with dish after dish of death metal delights served piping hot. This time around, though, the theming descends from outer space and takes up residence in the bowels of hell; frontman Dave Davidson leads the procession in preaching blast-beat fueled anti-gospel, accompanied by arguably the filthiest riffage the band has put out so far. The blistering “Nihilistic Violence” sounds about exactly like its title (and inspired as much when I saw it live) while “Strange and Eternal” pays homage to 90s death metal with the love and attention to detail you’d expect out of a band of this pedigree. But it’s the taste of blackened death metal on “The Intervening Abyss of Untold Aeons” – arguably one of the finest and most complete death metal tunes of the year – that is perhaps most intriguing, promising some potential new ground for Revocation to cover two decades into their prolific collective career. Netherheaven is unquestionable, front to back, and not to be missed by any death metal fan — neophyte or fanatic. -Ahmed Hasan

Rolo Tomassi - Where Myth Becomes Memory

Where Myth Becomes Memory is a beautiful album of growth for Rolo Tomassi. It goes further down the post-metal path that was seen on their last album, while never losing themselves in that space. Their ability to articulate new musical ideas while still giving us a refinement of their older mathcore sound is an achievement that avoids complacency. The stripping away of complex riffs brings a tighter focus on rhythmic progression, but this in no way telegraphs a lack of complexity; the band’s focus is lately directed towards meaningful chord progressions rather than abrupt moments of technical prowess. This album's ability to balance uplifting and soft harmonies while still being able to deliver some of the heaviest moments in the band's history are exactly the reason why it's my personal album of the year. It aggressively flips between either side of the coin so quickly that you completely forget that the interjected moments of mathcore riffery from their previous releases have almost fully disappeared.

WMBM manages to still hold onto the aggression of Grievances and older work while building onto the calm atmospheres that were more common on their last effort Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It. The juxtaposition of these sounds has never been clearer, but we now have music that marries these sounds. The expanded toolbox that Rolo Tomassi shows off with every album is reassurance that they won't rest on their past achievements. They don’t trade in old tools for new ones; they simply take the best tools from every genre they cross paths with and build the best music they can. -Brandon Klements

The Sawtooth Grin - Good.

In a year marked with some incredible comebacks, mathcore trailblazers The Sawtooth Grin have returned with their greatest work to date after TWENTY YEARS in a surprise drop this past Halloween. The Sawtooth Grin have been praised as MySpace Grind legends, but these Dillinger Escape Plan contemporaries – with their scratchy guitars and barrage of grooves – pre-date the scene and fizzled out in 2004 when that era of music started to really pop off. Going into Good. blind, you would have no clue that such a gap in their discography existed; this record is absolutely vital and entirely relevant, taking advantage of the cyclical nature of music trends and riding the new wave of mathcore back to the front of the line where they belong. Even more endearing, just as the album artwork's style and aesthetic telegraph an uncanny horror despite depicting wholesome childhood innocence (illustrated by renowned horror mangaka Shintaro Kago, known for his visceral and surreal depictions of vivisections), this record follows in suit as a loose concept about fatherhood and suburbia; sure, it sounds scary, but there's a whole lot to love. -Jimmy Rowe

Swampborn - Beyond Ratio

It’s been a few years since a debut black metal record picked me up and body slammed me as beautifully and aggressively as Swampborn’s Beyond Ratio. Melodic, frantic, obscenely heavy, wildly creative, and completely unpredictable, this record burrowed straight into my skull upon release and never once popped its gnarled head out. I’ve listened to at least a track off this record every week since its release, and I’m not even close to tired of it. The songwriting is of particular note here, balancing accessible heaviness with a more abstract, avant-garde adventurousness that turns even the most straightforward riff fest into a wild ride down a rabbit hole that is as disorienting as it is enjoyable. I literally have nothing bad to say about this record. I cannot wait for their next release. Until then, I’ll have Beyond Ratio to keep me very good company. Fucking slaps. -Jonathan Adams

Tómarúm - Ash in Realms of Stone Icons

It’s funny to refer to other entries on this list and when I wrote them because to you, the reader, they all seem to emerge together. But, of course, this post takes (a lot) of time to plan and write so not everything on here gets written at the same time. But I am writing up this entry right after I wrote up Messa’s and said that 2022 was the year of realized potential and nowhere is that more evident than on Tómarúm’s Ash in Realms of Stone Icons. Their previous EP, from 2020, caused quite a stir in our little community but it remained to be seen whether the gang could pull it off for a full length release of their busy style of extreme progressive metal.

Well, pull it off they did. Ash in Realms of Stone Icons can only really be dubbed the above (“extreme progressive metal”) because it effortlessly runs the gamut between progressive death, black metal, progressive metal and technical death metal. It never really slows down in that endeavor either, constantly channeling new and bizarre ways that the band have found to splice and hybridize these genres. If you’re a fan of explosive, heavy, challenging, and, above all, technical and complex metal music, then this is the album for you; no other in 2022 really came close to touching its scope and its daring in experimentation. -Eden Kupermintz

Towers of Jupiter - III

I don’t think it would be outrageous to describe III as the most obscure release on this year’s Top 50. I spend a lot of time researching and listening to post-rock and post-rock-adjacent artists, and I had never heard of this Canadian duo prior to stumbling across this album on Bandcamp. Exploring BC new releases can be tedious, to say the least, but this was one of those rare and exciting moments where the music leapt from my headphones directly into my heart and mind. There’s a backbone of nerd-prog here, sort of like what …Trail of Dead does with their conjuring of dragons, heroes, lands of old, and other such fantasy imagery, but Towers of Jupiter back up their lofty aims with some seriously powerful compositions. Layered vocals are nearly enveloped by towering (unintended pun alert!), full-hearted post-rock majesty that takes its time to weave its spell, but always leads the listener to majestic, empowering places. Towers of Jupiter were nowhere near my radar going into 2022, but I’m glad they found their way onto it, because they put forth a glorious effort on III. -David Zeidler

Wake - Thought Form Descent

Wake are a great band. Pretty much any way you shake it, there’s something exceptional about how they approach their work. Whether that’s the consistency in evolution regarding their songwriting or their willingness to amp up or dial down their aggression and emphasis on melody, nearly every step the band takes ends up being the right one. This remains the case with Thought Form Descent, which quickly climbed the ranks of their discography and firmly sits at this juncture as my favorite of their records. There are only a few songs released this year in any genre that gripped me as thoroughly and powerfully as “Swallow the Light”, which in my estimation is the most perfectly realized track the band have yet written. It’s a masterclass in balance, finding and evolving the most powerful bits of a song in a manner that only adds to their impact. The entire record is a melody rich banger that I can’t recommend highly enough. Wake have quickly become an absolute powerhouse in modern metal, and a record as thoroughly splendid as Thought Form Descent points only toward continued greatness. What a record. -Jonathan Adams

We broke the weather - we broke the weather

When was it exactly that we stopped caring about objectivity? It was a blessed moment and, for me, probably took place around 2016. It culminated in our removal of review scores and less stringent insistence on the third person. Like it or not, writing is done by people and people have contexts and, what’s more, these contexts influence which music we end up liking and listening to. Therefore, it is with open arms that I’m writing up we broke the weather, Nick Cusworth’s band. Nick is also an editor for the blog and one of the humans I love the most on this earth and that all bleeds into the music and makes it even more majestic and unique for me.

But, of course, personal experience needs a bed of “objective” experience to water, from which the plant of artistic enjoyment might blossom. And, indeed, we broke the weather is a delight even if you don’t know what a special person Nick really is. It channels all of my favorite heavier sides of progressive rock (think King Crimson) with modern jazz sensibilities and edge (think Colin Stetson) while also harkening to more scintillating sounds drawn from indie rock acts like The Dear Hunter. Enough name dropping for you? If you enjoy any of these bands, and just forward thinking, well made rock, go listen to this album immediately. -Eden Kupermintz

The Weeknd - Dawn FM

At this point, former Toronto mans and now global superstar The Weeknd is as much a cultural establishment as he is an artist, dominating airwaves around the world and performing at Super Bowls no less. Thus, with Dawn FM, there’s little left to prove, and it shows. The album is leaner than predecessors After Hours and especially the bloated Starboy, but makes up for it in quality, offering a vision that’s brighter and more optimistic than past releases. A loose concept album that follows the theme its title implies (featuring Jim Carrey as an eccentric radio host), Dawn FM moves further away from R&B still and generally follows the synthpop trend that After Hours began (“Blinding Lights”). Tesfaye’s voice, as melancholic and incredible as ever, delivers hook after hook, especially on highlights “Sacrifice”, “Take My Breath”, and the understated “Is There Someone Else”. And that’s all before Carrey closes it out with a thoughtful spoken word performance, parts of which will likely be quoted in Instagram captions for the next half decade at minimum. Dawn FM might feel like a curveball inclusion here, but its polish and charm is undeniable: Weeknd fan or not, it’s worth a listen-through at minimum if you’ve still somehow avoided it till now. -Ahmed Hasan

White Ward - False Light

This should have been an extravagant year for progressive post-black metal band White Ward. Their previous effort Love Exchange Failure was a massive breakout for White Ward and was our album of the year in 2019 – back when we still ranked art. In fact, it will likely stand the test of time as Heavy Blog’s last Album of the Year, and we certainly weren’t the only website singing its praises. Their hotly-anticipated follow-up False Light and its acclaim should have catapulted the band to new heights and a broader audience, but their homeland of Ukraine has had a tumultuous year to put it lightly, and the band’s ability to actively promote to their fullest extent was surely compromised by the conflict. It’s a shame, because False Light is every bit as compelling as Love Exchange Failure. The band’s haunting blend of dark jazz, black metal, and atmospheric sludge is as fascinating as ever, and further explorations on the band’s broader post-punk influences shows great promise in the development of an act that’s already firmly on the cutting edge of experimental extreme music. Let’s hope the future fares far better for White Ward in the coming year and that they can continue pushing their agenda of post-blackened dark jazz. -Jimmy Rowe

Wilderun - Epigone

In some ways, I understand why this album has gotten less attention than its predecessor. I mean, it’s literally named Epigone (meaning a less distinguished person who follows some famous person) and there’s an eerie sort of prescience in naming it that. But I think the music itself on Epigone shines just as bright as Veil of Imagination, albeit with a different, more muted light. This album is filled with quieter passages but these serve as a foil for its heaviness and coiling weirdness, creating an album which captures the feeling of roots moving about in the earth after the storm. Indeed, if this is truly the aftermath of Veil of Imagination (I still need to dive into the lyrics and discover if there’s a clue which supports this theory of mine) then it speaks to the massive, explosive undertaking that that album was but also exposes new avenues for Wilderun’s music in the future. There are so many good ideas on Epigone and I hope that, with the passing of time, more and more people can put in the effort to discover its rich, layered, and clever style which doesn’t fall at all from the heights of its predecessor. -Eden Kupermintz

Wormrot - Hiss

Looking at this list and through the annals of Heavy Blog, it seems safe to say that grindcore is having a powerful moment. Not only has a new crop of talented bands started to emerge (see fellow grinders Ernia elsewhere in these rankings), but the return of genre heavyweights are pushing the genre to punishing new heights. Perhaps no band proves this truer than Singaporean destruction crew Wormrot.
Wormrot is one of those bands with the uncanny ability to release a contender for album of the year with every single release. Though this year was marred by the news that vocalist Arif and manager Azean would be parting ways with the band, Hiss continued to raise the bar for grindcore with devastating effect.

Combining the forces of grindcore, black metal, death metal, and hardcore, Hiss showcases how merciless each strain of metal mayhem can be while seamlessly taking the listener on a neck-breaking journey. Few other bands could pull off ricocheting from thrashy violence to a 10-second track that’s peak grindcore to a drifting, almost post-hardcore track that includes soaring violins, yet Wormrot ties each of these elements together with relentless ferocity. These are veterans at the top of their craft, and we can only hope that the remaining members can pull off a resurrection capable of producing a successor worthy of Hiss someday soon. -Bridget Hughes

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