Well, hello there! It is time for what is probably Heavy Blog's best post of the year or, at the very least, my favorite! You know why? Because it's ruled by chaos; it is our anti-dote to the too-clean, ready-for-consumption logic of the Top 50 list. Yes, we still ran ours this years; don't ask me to explain why because I will say some things I will regret. Suffice it to say, I don't find long, Album of the Year lists that interesting anymore. Instead, I want publications to give me more of this, unstructured, tongue-in-cheek, wildly varied lists that speak to the core of why we do this thing: our love for music and some fucking fun, yeah?
That being said, I would like to shout-out the excellent blog Machine Music for first introducing me to the idea of doing lists like these. Go read Ron. Seriously. Do it. Now. OK, welcome back! The second shout-out is, of course, to our excellent writer and editors, for making this year's list even wilder, weirder, and more varied than last year's. Seriously, there's a lot in here and it's all worth your time so why not bookmark this page and come back every once in a while to randomly click on another album? Or don't. I'm not your boss. Fuck bosses. Fuck ranked lists. Fuck order. Onwards chaos!
The World Is On Fire And The People Who Are Burning Us Have Addresses And Names
Once again we are arrayed against our political enemies and we need a soundtrack for it
Ashenspire - Hostile Architecture
Here’s a challenge for you - see if you can listen to Ashenspire’s vocalist spitting “Scrounger, thief, gangrenous scab” without reaching for your pitchfork. It can’t be done. In general, no album has made me feel more like finally snapping inside and [REDACTED] a bunch of motherfuckers who are C-level assholes for some oil corporation or other. Or go find a “retvrn”, “sigma male” fuck and…you know. Point is, Hostile Architecture was the album for me to distill the pain, horror, and rage that the whatever stage of capitalism we are on now raises within me on a weekly basis. It does so with straight-forward, yet somehow poetic at the same time, lyrics and the nascent power and fury of uncompromising black metal. Patriarchy, misogyny, greed, nothing is spared the vicious glare of Ashenspire’s gaze and there is little for us to do but feel a flicker of revolutionary fire when they are revealed to us as what they are: scum.
Chat Pile - God’s Country
While ruminations on poverty and homelessness is Ashenspire’s bread and butter, those looking for socially conscious lyrical content related to human dignity juxtaposed against raucous and forward-thinking metal will find a lot to love in God’s Country. “Why?” minces no words as frontman Raygun Busch (an incredible fucking stage name that more or less cements the band within this superlative alone) hollers about the “Real American Horror Story” and “fucking tragedy” of homelessness in a country where most of our structures are just sitting empty. Beyond that, there are sludgy meditations on addiction, mental illness, and violent crime that will feel all too close to home for those of us in the flyover states suffering from social entropy where the prevailing mentality of bootstraps and praying harder somehow(!!) isn’t getting results. God’s Country is the soundtrack to late stage capitalism; it’s not the one we need, but it’s certainly the one we deserve.
Terminal Nation / Kruelty - The Ruination of Imperialism
Two of the heaviest acts from across the globe joined forces this year to drop an anticapitalist, antifascist split that left no earth unscorched or skull uncracked. Little Rock’s Terminal Nation and Tokyo’s Kruelty both excel at titanic, caustic metallic hardcore that hits like a sledgehammer, and The Ruination of Imperialism sees them both firing on all cylinders. One of my most quoted lyrics of the year comes from TN’s “Sacrificial Capital” via Stan Liszewski’s imposing mosh call: “120 miles an hour of terminal velocity, from penthouse balcony to the sidewalk of Wall Street” followed by a series of OUGHs meant to mimic the sound of you getting repeatedly horse kicked in the diaphragm, I assume. The track ends with another great one: “There must be retribution before redistribution!” Yeah, I’m ready to fucking [REDACTED] a [PEJORATIVE] with my [DATA EXPUNGED], if you know what I mean. And in the meantime? I’m moshing.
Stray From The Path - Euthanasia
Stray From The Path are one of the modern masters of the cop drop anthem. In fact, it’s become a big part of their nu-tinged hardcore punk arsenal, penning whole series of tracks on police violence, poverty, white supremacy, toxic masculinity, and all the nasty ways they intersect. On Euthanasia, we get all this and more, including shots taken at our oligarch overlords and every bastard that profits off the subjugation of common folks. “III” is one of the hands down best anti-pig tracks since “Fuck Tha Police” itself. No punches pulled, no words minced, and no mercy for the boots on our neck or the sad fucks who lick them. SFTP are the closest thing to a contemporary Rage Against The Machine we have and goddamn do I love them for it.
Albums To Draw Your Sword Against The Tyranny Of God To
Spit fire in the face of the world and stand up for yourself
The Callous Daoboys - Celebrity Therapist
There’s something in the spirit of Atlanta mathcore collective The Callous Daoboys that makes me feel like I could flip a truck where absolutely necessary. Singer Carson Pace’s lyrics and delivery inspire the confidence and self-righteousness necessary to stand against oppression and injustice while holding true to yourself and your values. It’s also very much in the way that the band skips the line between mathcore and prog with alternative rock and emo (I’ve said this before in our Top 50 rundown, but this is Dillinger’s Miss Machine for a generation that grew up listening to Panic At The Disco, nevermind the clear overlap) that effectively joins the brain with the heart to most efficiently capitalize on the angst and spitfire fury needed to follow through with whatever good trouble and/or mischief it inspires. Do whatever you want, but this is the soundtrack for it to be done with purpose. Obey the homily, jerk off in your car.
Fellowship - The Sabrelight Chronicles
I don’t listen much to power metal these days but I still love the genre. There’s just nothing quite like it when you’re looking for music that lifts you up from the dirt, puts a sword in your hand, and makes you feel like anything is possible. No other album in 2022 and, indeed, in the last few years, has captured that feeling for me like Fellowship’s The Saberlight Chronicles. Is it cheesy? I mean, it’s called The Saberlight Chronicles. Is it really concerned with being innovative and complex? Not at all. But is it powerful, moving, groovy, and life-affirming? One hundred percent. Fellowship, in amidst galloping riffs, over the top solos, and soaring vocals, have weaved together a story of coming together, of believing in yourself, and, yes, of good defeating evil. Are we going to pretend that this kind of stories doesn’t resonate with us? Are we going to pretend we don’t need them? I won’t. I won’t pretend I don’t love this album through and through and that it’s not a fantastic piece of metal, power or otherwise.
Get the Shot – Merciless Destruction
“Warfare!!!!” “War is eternal!!” “Death to the false kings!!” “Tell me where's your god now!!” “Set ablaze heaven's door, paint it fucking red!!” “Crucify your savior, let him bleed and rot!!” “Death is fucking bliss!!” “Fuck your faith, Fuck your rules, Fuck your everything!!” “Time will twist the knife until you fucking die!!” “We breathe just to be sacrificed!!” “Murder is permanent!!” “Die motherfucker die!!” “No apologies for my enemies!!” “Every lie carries a price to pay!!” “Judgment day's coming!!” “Welcome to Quebec City you son of a bitch!!” “Night night, sucka!!” “You picked the wrong wolf to fuck with!!” “Give us extinction!!” “We live to see this fucking world bleed!!” “In blood we'll all be baptized!!” “Let the world burn!!” “Bottom feeder, we're not the same!!” “Make your prayers, bloodsucker!!” “Take your last breath because this is when you pay!!” “Time heals nothing!!” “Time to face defeat!!” “Die motherfucker die!!” “I was doomed, Doomed to be born dead!!” “Final punishment for all the traitors!!” “Make no peace!!” “May you all rest in torment!!!!” “Arf, arf, arf!!” *shotgun blast*
I’m Not Sure Where But This Album Is A Portal To Somewhere Else
Albums that made us wander elsewhere
In-Dreamview - Spires (Eden)
For an album that is clearly meant to conjure a specific location (namely a cathedral or group of such buildings), Spires makes me dream of everywhere like no other album this year. Because it’s instrumental and you don’t get any specifics about the place the music is trying to summon, it can be anywhere. Well, anywhere urban. And because it can be anywhere it is also everywhere, making me think about my favorite spots in cities around the world, where I have sat or will sit (or, in some ways, am still sitting) to contemplate the life and bustle unfolding around me. The percussive approach taken not only to the actual percussion on this release but to the production of everything else as well does a phenomenal job of giving these memories and ruminations form. It ends up being 2022’s most transportative album for me, taking me both inside and outside of myself.
Blood Incantation - Timewave Zero
Take King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Philip K. Dick and put them in a room. Give them a great many drugs. Put them on a ship and send them into orbit. Blood Incantation’s Timewave Zero is the audio equivalent of what the following hours would probably feel like. BI, for all their techy, heady death metal bluster, have never sounded this ambitious and blissed out. Without question the most sonically controversial record released by a death metal band in 2022, Timewave Zero is Blood Incantation being wholly and unequivocally themselves, making the music they want in the exact manner they wish to make it. Genre expectations aside, there are few records released last year that transcended time and space with such skill, reserve, and dedication as Timewave Zero. It’s a masterful and deeply enjoyable record for those in its intended headspace, so grab a bong and take a trip to the stars with the boys of BI sans riffs. You won’t regret it.
This Deftonally Sounds Familiar
Best Deftones inspired albums
SOM - The Shape of Everything (David)
I’m in several social media-based shoegaze groups, despite being more a fan of the idea of shoegaze than I am the foundational artists of the genre. One of the biggest ongoing, hilariously contentious conflicts in these groups revolves around the question “are Deftones shoegaze?” To me, the answer seems very simple: no, but they certainly seem to hold shoegaze in high regard when composing some of their more melodic material. Despite the fire and brimstone brought forth by shoegaze purists when it comes to how you answer the aforementioned question, it’s undeniable that Deftones have inspired a ton of great modern artists in a number of ways, and one of those ways is with their “gazier inclinations. What we now refer to more as “heavygaze” is where you’ll find a lot of this influence, and SOM is one of the leading voices in this realm.
This is only their sophomore LP, but they bring a ton of experience to the table, with every member having factored into a number of other high-quality bands (Caspian, Junius, Constants, and Rosetta, to name a few). They’ve also been cutting their teeth on the road for the past several years, touring with bands like O’Brother, Holy Fawn, The End Of The Ocean, and soon with Katatonia, Solstafir, and Grivo as well, so they’re a well-oiled machine at this point. All the practice, discipline, and chemistry shines through clearly on The Shape Of Everything, which is impeccably produced, setting up shop in that glorious crossroads of roaring guitars, swirling atmosphere, crushing low end, and memorable melodies. Look to the two tracks that anchor the middle of the record - “Shape” and “Clocks” - for prime examples of the propulsive yet still dreamy energy the band has so assertively placed their stamp upon.
Thornhill - Heroine
I’ll admit when I’m wrong. Going into Thornhill’s second full length, I was distraught. The Melbourne metalcore outfit were one of my favorite new bands, having developed a rich, robust post-djent swagger that was as moshable as it was swoonworthy. Excited to see where they took that sound, I was destitute hearing the pre-release singles off Heroine, where they had seemingly hung up the more progressive elements for straight Deftones sleaze. Now, don’t get me wrong – the influence was always present, with vocalist Jacob Charlton pulling off the best Chino impression of them all while looking like The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. Heroine may be a departure from their earliest work, but it’s beautifully crafted and sexy, delivering on a whiskey-smoke cabaret fantasy with wandering hands and dark intent. I didn’t give this album enough love out of pure spite, but goddamn do they pull it off. This is She Wants Revenge for people with Northlane shirts buried in their closet.
Fleshwater - We’re Not Here to Be Loved
In much the same way I loathe Code Orange and wish they’d dissolve into their earnest, alt-emo alter egos Adventures, I’d kill to see Vein.fm disbanded in favor of Fleshwater, their ‘90s rock worshiping counterparts with vocalist/guitarist Marisa Shirar. It’s not just the Deftones influence at play here, but the Kurt Ballou-produced touch of genius and genuine passion for reenvisioning the music most hardcore kids grew up on without being nostalgic for nostalgia’s sake. Grunge, shoegaze, alt-rock, and post-hardcore all converge in a brooding, shimmering stew of crunch and delay, gluing you to your speakers, dredging up faded memories of a time and situation you can’t quite place but feels nonetheless essential and transformative... sorry – that’s the Fleshwater talkin’.
Bathing in harsh sounds to smooth the edges off
Abest - Molten Husk
I think Molten Husk is my favorite dark horse album of the year; it might end up being my actual favorite given time and distance from other releases. Abest are without a doubt my most treasured find this year, that’s for sure. They’ve crafted such a divinely sickening combination of post-hardcore playing at being dissodeath; of filthy stoner sludge masquerading as mathcore. I couldn’t begin to tell you what tuning they’re playing in, but it’s exceptionally disconcerting and literally hair-raising. Then factor in the fog of fuzzy distortion, the noisy, glitchy interludes, and the nihilistic, dysphoric lyrics, and you’ve got yourself some premium mental sandpaper. Think Glassing with groove. Aeviterne for aging hardcore kids. LLNN’s hyperactive cousin. Bathe in the sweet, hypnotic dissonance and drift away.
Aeviterne - The Ailing Facade
Dissodeath is finally coming into its own - thirty whole years since its advent. Ready to shred through its pupal state as a microgenre and extend its corrosive tendrils into prominence, one can look to Aeviterne as part of the vanguard delivering the siege. The Ailing Facade is wall to wall scabrous riffs stretched agonizingly over hammering, ecstatic percussion, inducing a state of focused delirium through sheer repetitive aural violence. The bass is somehow the most menacing part, especially on tracks like “The Gaunt Sky” where it plods along in mesmeric counter rhythm before snarling out of the miasmic mix as a jump scare. I never fail to complete a listen through of The Ailing Facade without feeling like I’ve been tumbled smooth by a cosmic rock polisher. That’s the good stuff.
Gudsforladt - Friendship, Love and War (Eden)
This one might stand out from this category because it is decidedly brighter than what you’d normally associate with a noisy, abrasive category. However, the lo-fi approach taken to the production, mostly the drums and cymbals, alongside the sheer mass of sounds that are constantly bombarding you make Friendship, Love and War an extremely cleansing album. And I mean that with all of the actinic undertones you might read into, of overexposure scouring away the flesh to leave clean, purged bone underneath. If you’re looking for music that comes after you and leaves nothing in its wake but which does so while being bright and chromatic, then look no further than Gudsforladt’s unique take on black metal.
Inflicting Psychic Wounds Upon Thine Enemies
Angular, dissonant, angry, evil, violent, etc.
Scalpel - Century in the Boilpit
I mean, this album is literally called Century in the Boilpit from a band called Scalpel. It was practically made for this category and it helps that the music on it is what you might call “old-school progressive death metal”. Don’t think current OSDM with weird riffs, think Atheist, Mithras, early Death but with even more brutal death metal influences thrown in there. Think Ingurgitating Oblivion but instead of those weird, atmospheric passages those guys do (god, I love IO so much), there are screeching, swerving solos, more blast-beats than you can hold, and just an ongoing onslaught of music. And that’s just the first track; further down the album only the truly bold may tread. Quiver in your boots mine enemies! I am inflicting psychic wounds upon thee with my Scalpel.
Fawn Limbs - Oleum
Do you like being the victim of aggravated assault? Or rather, wishing it upon someone else for whatever emotionally justifiable reason to produce such fantasies? Do you think getting bludgeoned over the head from behind so you’re totally unaware, then riding the ensuing panic, pain, and euphoric pleasure of disconnection from consciousness into a state of nirvana sounds… nice? That’s exactly what “Death Pores”, the first track off Fawn Limbs’ newest EP will do. Oleum is exactly five minutes and twenty-three seconds long, spanning four tracks of absolutely unhinged, unsettling mathgrind.
Personally, I think it’s the perfectly measured dose of medicine I need sometimes. To put it in their own words: “Oleum is a concept EP about fist-fucking your demons raw and dry to emerge anew.” Take a quick break from the mundanity of daily stressors by letting yourself be violated, ripped apart, and reborn in under six minutes to the tune of Car Bomb playing with Humanity’s Last Breath’s production and Sectioned’s fury – perfect for shaking the “I’m so pissed I can’t see straight” blues.
Knoll - Metempiric
Knoll are hands down one of the best emerging bands from any corner of the metal world. Still relatively young, their second full-length Metempiric pretty solidly cements them as one of the most talented, prolific grind institutions working right now. It’s almost impossible to truly categorize them; it’s the dark, heaving grindcore of WVRM meets the extreme cacophonous euphoria of dissodeath and mathcore’s disregard for structure, all stumbling over wailing brass and power electronics in the process. It’s Full of Hell and Fawn Limbs’ bastard child, with Jamie Eubanks’ disgusting, throat-shredding voice carrying the atomic energy through the wall of angular, vicious noise like a clarion call. Putting this album on and giving someone the Kubrick stare is attempted manslaughter in some regions, so proceed with caution whilst inflicting psychic wounds upon your enemies.
Vermin Womb - Retaliation
It’s hard to quantify how skin-peeling Vermin Womb’s sound is without seeing them live. I had the distinct pleasure of doing so last year and I still haven’t recovered. Take the soul-crushing heaviness of Primitive Man (whose head honcho Ethan Lee McCarthy serves as guitarist and frontman) and put it in a blender with the squealing mania of Hissing and the pulverizing aggression of Knoll and you have yourself a Vermin Womb track. Live it’s a deeply punishing experience. On record, through headphones while sitting alone in the dark, it’s an existential nightmare. The group’s second full-length record Retaliation is a blistering assault on the senses no matter how it’s consumed, and I’m having a hard time thinking of another record as sonically unrelenting and punishing as this one. It’s an air raid on the senses that will appeal only to those who love their albums designed to punish mercilessly, but if you’re in that camp like me, prepare your body. You may have just found your record of the year. Truly, incomparably brutal stuff.
Everyone likes noise rock allovasudden and we’re gonna pretend like we didn’t notice
Best noise rock and noise rock-adjacent records
Chat Pile - God’s Country
This album appears everywhere else on Best Of and Superlative lists across the music sphere (and again on this one), so it might as well sit here in its most obvious box as well. In a world where listening to Daughters is no longer viable, Chat Pile rose to the fucking occasion and took the mantle of The Jesus Lizard’s favorite child. Throw in some nu metal, industrial, and sludge influence, and you’ve got a record that serves as a blueprint for noise rock to come.
Turian - No Longer Human
Seattle’s Turian are no rookies, but with a new vocalist in Vern Metztli, they feel like a band reborn and ready to rock - noisily. The quartet skirt through a few -cores in their quest to deliver a frantic, groovy, heavy record, and they check all the boxes flawlessly. No Longer Human is supremely danceable in every sense of the word, whether you’re twisting in place like Uma Thurman or crowdkilling the plushies in your bedroom. That’s thanks to Turian’s incredible ability to play yacht rock riffs like they’re hardcore. One of the year’s coolest hidden gems.
black midi - Hellfire (Eden)
I’d hope that these weirdos don’t need any introductions by now. For me, someone who is not a fan of noise rock as such (though I did enjoy Chat Pile’s album), black midi inject the style with enough weirdness, progressive, off-kilter musical ideas, and just a panache that I am often missing from bands of this style. Hellfire is loud, bizarre, scattered, and noisy as all hell, scratching multiple itches if you’re looking to play something at a very loud volume and also have it scramble your brain like so many eggs under the furious gaze of a spatula. Or something. Listen to this album.
Adolf Plays The Jazz - Low Life | We Can’t Lose. We Have Already Lost
While this Greek collective certainly have some of their roots planted in the post rock realm, it’s much more from the temperamental, “burn it all down” political statement vein of Godspeed You! Black Emperor than the twinkly, lush instrumentals that many associate with that genre. They’re also twice-removed descendants of boundary-expanding early-aughts “post-punk/noise-rock (now with horns!)” bands like Black Eyes and The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower. Though, by my estimation, Adolf Plays The Jazz has a higher song-by-song success rate than those bands, with their deft blend of edge, art, otherworldliness, and a fractured beauty that’s like a smashed mirror splashing brilliant beams of vivid light radiantly across what at first appeared to be a bleak, grey canvas. It’s strong proof that noise rock can move from challenging and abrasive to vibrant and emotionally enriching, while still transitioning back without sacrificing its natural forward motion. Definitely one of the criminally under-heard releases of 2022.
Best horny albums 🥵🎷
White Ward - False Light
When I think of saxophones in metal, my first thought in Current Year is Ukraine’s White Ward, who famously pairs atmospheric black metal with seedy dark jazz for a sound that is entirely their own. They’re employed masterfully by White Ward; sultry, mysterious, and whimsical. White Ward continued to branch out in their explorations in vast influences with False Light, bringing out trumpets to compliment some new advancements in their sound via post-punk and gothic Americana. A variety of doots!
Onségen Ensemble - Realms (Eden)
While this album contains some great brass instruments from the get-go, it’s going to make you work a bit for the more beautiful iterations of the windy ensemble (get it) of sounds it has in store. The second track contains some absolutely astonishing use of the flute and deeper into the album the psychedelic engine at the core of Onségen Ensemble really kicks in, using all of these sounds to great effect as it builds its lush musical journey. If you’re willing to dedicate yourself to this album, you’ll find this year’s most inspired and fantastic compositions in this space.
Cult of Luna - The Long Road North
Look, I know that horns aren’t omnipresent across Cult of Luna’s latest album, but it wouldn’t feel right to celebrate this year’s doot-iest records without highlighting The Long Road North and its contributions from supreme sax leader Colin Stetson (known for his work scoring Hereditary and Red Dead Redemption 2). Cult of Luna’s atmospheric sludge metal and Stetson’s swirling and ethereal horn work are a match made in heaven, and one could only hope that this is a partnership that continues on into the future. Be sure to check out the collaboration on the tracks “An Offering To The Wild” and “Beyond II.”
No thanks, I got this
Christian Cosentino - High Rising Times (Eden)
There are many parameters by which you could judge an entry to this category but the sheer mass and scope of the project definitely need to be considered. It’s just that much more impressive for a singular person (as much as anything is really created by one person and not them and their community) to pull off something grandiose and busy. In that regard, there is no one-person project that more impressed me than Christian Cosentino’s High Rising Times. Beyond the fact that I love the music (the album is in my Top 10 albums of the year) there is also a lot of awe at what Cosentino has achieved on this release, namely explosive, grandiose, ethereal, and majestic black metal.
The voice of the voiceless
Russian Circles - Gnosis
In a sentence I never in a million years thought I’d be writing, the new Russian Circles album has a lot in common with the new Death Cab release. Not sonically, of course, but in terms of where it sits in the trajectory of each band’s career, absolutely. Both bands released three consecutive albums in the 2000’s that cemented them spots as beloved members of their respective genres, and both subsequently spent the next decade-plus toiling through a series of records lacking the same sort of inspiration that initially secured them so much cachet.
Then suddenly, in 2022, they emerged with their best material since their glory days. While DCFC’s Asphalt Meadows (covered elsewhere here) is a very solid record that sits just a bit under the very high bar the band set in the aughts, Gnosis stands tall right alongside Russian Circles’ best work. It’s sharp, focused, and features the kind of snarling attitude that I found to be somewhat forgotten in the band’s recent work. I’m not sure if it was two-plus years of COVID that allowed RC the time and space they needed to take the proper inventory, but whatever happened, it shifted them back from an increasingly aimless path into a much more centered and purposeful place that reminds listeners of exactly why this band achieved such high regard all those years back.
Poly-math - Zenith (Eden)
What if you took post-metal and, instead of blending it “back” into its roots in post-rock, you meshed it with frenetic, vibrant math-rock? Why, you’d get Poly-math of course, which have been exploring the answer to this question for years now. On Zenith the group have pushed themselves farther than ever before, tying in off-kilter brass instruments, heavy hitting riffs, unstoppable groove, and a percussive segment which just keeps hitting to create one of 2022’s richest, most bewildering instrumental albums. Seriously, if you’re a fan of weird time signatures and, more importantly, the clever and efficient use of them and other progressive compositional tendencies, look no further than this album. It will rock your socks off while making you go “hhhmmm” at the same time. And is that not the mark of any great instrumental album?
Funeral for Reality
Fucking sad and fucking heavy, like the world we live in
Soldat Hans - Anthaupt
In any year where Soldat Hans release an album, you can bet your money that it will be the most harrowing and crushingly beautiful album of that year. Es taut, released in 2018, is like a wound in my mind on that year, first introducing me to the band’s uncompromising blend of doom, post-rock, drone, and ambience. But no, not like that; not like whatever is playing your brain right now. Sadder, even sadder, and tinged with so much weight that it feels like you might not be able to finish even the first track. Anthaupt is even more like that, more patient for its longer run-time and more prone to fall into the gaping, ambient holes that littered Es taut. It’s a more traditional album in some ways, less inclined to over-twenty-minutes long tracks and the such, but Soldat Hans have not lost a single beat in the four years that have transpired since Es taut. If anything, Anthaupt ends up being more punishing for its silences, screaming its melancholy in the form of contrast. It’s just a really fucking sad album, OK?
Northless - A Path Beyond Grief (Bridget)
There’s a 1982 experimental film called “Koyaanisqatsi” that seeks to question humankind’s relationship with itself and the environment by juxtaposing slow motion and time-lapse imagery of cities with landscapes. The score is a minimalist composition by Philip Glass, and features the name of the film (a Hopi term for life of out of balance) repeated as a low, meditative chant.
When I was required to watch the film as a 17 year old high school student, the beauty and meaning of it flew right over my head. But the score, with its heavy, pendulous creep and slow build throughout the movie, made an indelible mark on my memory. Every once in a while, the song would pop into my brain completely unbidden, but I never remembered enough detail to re-discover Koyaanisqatsi in full. That is, until I stumbled across A Path Beyond Grief, the debut album by Milwaukee doom/sludge band Northless.
A Path Beyond Grief is a cacophonous journey through doom metal with streaks of sludge and post-metal, plus a dissonant edge. It’s simultaneously beautiful and suffocating, crushing all those in its path. Like Koyaanisqatsi, the album starts off ominous and trudging, like a funeral march, only to build in intensity until the listener is immersed in a frenzied, furious sadness. Though doom isn’t typically one of my preferred subgenres, the sheer emotional impact of A Path Beyond Grief pummeled into way into my favorite releases of 2022.
Heavy Blog Is Not Heavy
Best albums for easing the punishing ringing in your ears
Bartees Strange - Farm To Table
I don’t feel like America has done much to earn a pat on the back these past several years, but at least we can say that within our musical landscape there exists a melting pot that is truly thriving. There have been countless artists that have attempted to present music fusing a variety of eclectic influences, but rarely is the end result as remarkably seamless and singular as it is with Bartees Strange. When I listen to Farm To Table (as well as his 2020 debut Live Forever), I hear alternative rock, pop, emo, punk, art-rock, classic rock, folk, R&B, soul, country, electronic, post-rock, and more. Yet despite the reasonable expectation that those divergent styles wouldn’t work together, they absolutely do, and harmoniously so. This is what the crossroads of wonderfully diverse cultures should feel like. America needs to start taking some notes.
Pinegrove - 11:11
Since exploding onto the scene with 2016’s Cardinal, this New Jersey-based collective has thrived around the rock-solid core provided by frontman and primary songwriter Evan Stephens Hall. His delivery is a vulnerable-yet-charismatic blend of emo confessionalism, indie rock intellectualism, and rustic alt-country twang, which is consistently emotionally engaging and incredibly easy on the ears. But it’s not just Stephens putting in the work here; the lineup that appears on 11:11 has incredible chemistry, and the resulting compositions prove to be the band’s most compelling since Cardinal. The album is in turns joyous and energetic, gentle and endearing, pensive and bittersweet, and what ties it all together and makes it work is its unimpeachable sincerity. This is an album with bountiful rewards that suits celebration and reflection in equal measures.
Death Cab For Cutie - Asphalt Meadows
Transport me back to the 2000’s and I’ll list Death Cab as one of my favorite bands, but I’m no DFCF apologist, and I have no hesitation acknowledging that there are no great albums in their 2010’s catalog. However, their newest release proves to be their best since 2008’s Narrow Stairs, and by a wide margin at that. And good for them for achieving this not by reaching back to replicate what they once excelled at, but instead perfecting the formula they’ve been working with for the past decade or so. I’ve knocked their recent releases for sounding overproduced and less organic than the confessional indie rock that made them famous, but on Asphalt Meadows it becomes clear that their modern approach can work just fine as long as it’s backed by strong hooks and melodies. It also features two of their best songs in nearly a decade and half: the post-rock-charged “Foxglove Through The Clearcut,” and the ‘80s throwback banger “I Miss Strangers.”
Deca - Smoking Gun (Eden)
I actually found out about this album through the album that it ended up beating off this list: Homeboy Sandman's excellent Still Champion. Deca is featured on that release and Sandman and him have collaborated in the past but Smoking Gun inched out Sandman's album throug its killer mix of lyricism (focused on so-called "conspiracy theories" but from a leftist perspective which aims to unearth the role of the ruling elite in our lives), incredible production, and a whole dollop of fun. It was this years's standout rap album to my ears, cleverly weaving in samples, great beats, and a penchant for a revolutionary, radical vocabulary that's not often found to such an explicit degree in these musical circles. In short, the good stuff.
Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard - Backhand Deals
Like many children of Boomers, I was raised on a ready diet of Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steve Miller Band, and other members of the 1960s-70s movement that rocked (pun intended) America. To this day, my dad and I swap playlists filled with shared memories across our multi-generational childhoods. But as much as these classic artists are auditory comfort food, they have never been as truly mine. Protest anthems can share themes across the years, but the realities of my experiences aren’t going to be reflected in songs written decades before I was born.
Enter Cardiff-based Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, whose energizing blend of 70’s inspired glam rock and power pop has become my go-to mood boost. Their newest offering, Backhand Deals, is the millennial pink protest album that wraps indictments against the rising cost of living, endless wars in the Middle East, and rampant political corruption in a ridiculously catchy package. Shamelessly worshiping the 70’s era of rock and yet completely attuned to the times, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard is the protest anthem that connects to my past and present.
The 1975 - Being Funny In A Foreign Language
I’ve been a longtime fan of British indie pop act The 1975, and each album continues to prove as an event in its own right. While I loved the admittedly bloated and unfocused Notes on a Conditional Form in 2020, this hotly anticipated follow-up is the band’s most focused and consistent record to date, sitting at a tight 45 minutes with banger after banger. With Jack Antinoff producing, the band skips around indie folk, new wave, and dreampop for a fun and engaging record (mostly) about loving yourself and those around you, with significantly fewer references to singer Matty Healy’s genitals to undercut the sincerity of it all (oh no, they’re still there).
Time Is a Construct…But Seriously, What Year Is It?
Is It Me, Or Is It 2003?
The Cast Before The Break - Where We Are Now
Remember when band reunions used to be a slippery slope that more often than not ended with fans cringing both at the resulting music and their own incautious expectations? Apparently times have changed. I don’t think anyone saw this coming - an already relatively obscure emo band who had a couple of releases in the early 2010’s showing back up after ten years of silence with their finest work to date (largely culled from the writing sessions for an album that never came to fruition in 2012). But here we are, maybe seeing one of the silver linings of the COVID era: the entire world grinding to a halt seems to have given old friends the opportunity to reconnect and actually put some real time into reigniting the spark that once inspired them to create.
Opening track “Friends of Mine” sets just the right tone: with its pensive instrumental beginnings giving way to the emotional entrance of the full band for the first verse, to the introduction of tender female vocals that set the stage for a triumphant final crescendo, this is a stellar example of just how well this approach to fusing emo intimacy with post-rock expansiveness can work when done correctly. And this is far from a one-and-done situation, as that same quality runs through every one of the album’s ten tracks. The title tells the tale - this is about where The Cast Before The Break are now, not where they were when they were a younger band, and all signs indicate that they’re in a very good place.
City of Caterpillar - Mystic Sisters
Speaking of “didn’t see that coming,” this Richmond, Virginia screamo-adjacent band released a demo and a 7-song LP in 2002 and then promptly fell off the radar. Still, it should come as no surprise that their name lingered lovingly on the lips of fans for years after their dissolution. They were one of the finest examples of how to take genres like screamo and hardcore, known mostly for their violent immediacy and grueling intensity, and expand them into something experimental, artful, and progressive. Although they existed only briefly at the time, their influence could be felt through this vein of heavy music.
Twenty years after their pioneering debut, they returned in 2022 with Mystic Sisters, stone cold proof that two decades don’t mean a thing if you’ve got a strong self of self and the chops to back it up. City of Caterpillar pick up where they left off with no fear, with the 8-minute opener “Thought Drunk” rumbling in brimming with ideas, beginning with one of their signature long, tense builds, and concluding with a chaotic swirl of purposefully sour notes and a disarmingly queasy flow, sounding like free jazz thrown through a wood chipper.
It’s aggressively challenging, but that was what made this band so exciting to listen to back in 2002 - it felt like they were truly making music with no boundaries. As Mystic Sisters progresses, it changes shape constantly. Swaggering, ferocious, ugly, beautiful, patient, agitated, confident, vulnerable, raw, cerebral - these are all appropriate descriptors at some point of the album. It’s incredibly encouraging to see a band that was so short-lived and so unconventional have the opportunity to return to the stage and so seamlessly continue down the unorthodox path they once helped to blaze.
Electric Callboy – Tekkno
Reformed crunkcore pioneers Electric Callboy have come a long way over the last decade. Along with cleaning up their image—a process that has included a name change, a new singer, actively distancing themselves from their earlier misogynistic material and expunging any overt sexism from Tekkno entirely—they’ve proved that surprise hit “Hypa Hypa” and standout deep cut “MC Thunder” weren’t simply serendipitous successes born of broken clocks. The switch of focus from crunk and hip-hop to Eurobeat and hardstyle techno has completely reinvigorated the band’s sound.
Tekkno is infectious, upbeat, and oozes positivity. No only do Electric Callboy show a genuine appreciation and understanding of the electronic elements of their sound, but their passion is utterly palpable. As with their hardstyle forefathers (see below) the majority of the album’s tracks are simply about how much they rave and how they want to share the joy it inspires with as many people as possible. There are those who will still see the blending of techno and metalcore as a gimmick, but the fact remains that no other band have blended the two styles as effectively as Electric Callboy do here. Tekkno isn’t quite the “best” album of 2022, but it’s undoubtedly the most fun.
Girish and the Chronicles – Hail to the Heroes
2023 has been the year of the “hair metal revival revival.” Most genre standouts, such as those from H.E.A.T, Crashdïet and, yes, even Skid Row are very much in keeping with hair metal in its harder-edged modern incarnation, while breakout bands like Ghost and Parkway Drive have adapted its sensibilities (and sometimes just straight-up stole riffs) into more contemporary settings. Hail to the Heroes, however, is pure throwback. This album sounds like it came out in 1987, and if it had actually been released that same year, alongside the likes of Whitesnake, Hysteria, Appetite for Destruction, Girls, Girls, Girls and Permanent Vacation, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be talking about it in the same breath as those genre defying albums.
Girish and the Chronicles already showed considerable promise with their previous two records, but it’s this third outing that’s cemented them as world class ambassadors of 80s-influenced hard rock. Although their previous albums contained more than a few standouts each, Hail to the Heroes is stacked from front to back with instant classics. From its immediately iconic title track through harder-edged fare like “Primeval Desire” and “I’m Not the Devil” and masterful ballads like “Love’s Damnation” and “The Heaven’s Crying” [sic.], there isn’t a dud track on here. Hair metal has arguably never been in a healthier position since the aforementioned 1987, and Girish and his Chronicles are a big reason why.
NewJeans - New Jeans / OMG
There are only two names you need to know in k-pop moving forward. The first is ATEEZ, the eight-member male idol group pushing the genre to its furthest reaches in both sound and performance. The second is rookie five-member female idol group NewJeans, the newest addition to the HYBE Label Collective roster who famously manage BTS. Many k-pop outfits have embraced the now-retro ‘90s/Y2K aesthetic this year, but that’s where the comparison stops. It is in aesthetic alone, cobbling together the ridiculous outfits of yesteryear and dressing them up in designer chic, sampling a vintage sound, and calling it a day.
NewJeans were conceptualized, scouted, trained, and are managed by an all-female team, the first of its kind. Not only that, but their sound is quintessentially, from the bottom up, the same transcendent, nostalgic, bright sound that originated during the ‘90s pop boom, albeit underscored with a more modern approach like silky 808s. Not only THAT, but their whole concept (every k-pop group has one, for better or worse) seems to be that they’re figments of a lonely girl’s imagination in 1998 (or they just believe they are?) They weave all these threads into extremely digestible, catchy, but extremely really fucking good tracks performed with synchronized choreo and a music video catalogue that is already expansive for a new group, slowly dribbling out their lore in much the same way a Japanese found footage horror film would, much to my personal enjoyment.
There is something so organic and totally out of left field about their approach, forgoing needing to ride whatever flashy trend k-pop is chasing on a given day for something that feels like art again, despite its seemingly simple candy-pop veneer. They are very much a ‘what you see is just the tip of the iceberg’ operation. It is extremely rare to find that in the genre, and it’s so fucking refreshing it feels like a revelation.
Satan - Earth Infernal (Eden)
Hopefully Satan needs no introduction, and not just the metaphysical embodiment of humanity’s willpower unleashed but rather one of the longest running and hardest working bands in heavy metal’s history. On Earth Infernal, Satan show that they are still miles ahead of most other bands in their understanding of what makes heavy metal work. Hard-hitting riffs played with flair, powerful vocals decrying the world’s ills, an unstoppable groove section which “stands behind” these parts and pushes them to eleven, everything is here to make a truly great album. And this is only the gazillionth time they’ve done it! When will they be stopped? They cannot.
When the Riff Hits Though
I AM - Eternal Steel
Texas crossover is undeniably some of the best in the biz (Power Trip, Iron Age), and I AM brought us the most heavy fuckin’ metal album in the genre this year. Generally known for their mid- and downtempo punisher grooves, I AM flipped the riff switch to MAX on Eternal Steel, invoking The Million Stank Faces technique to curse us all with permanent scowls for the rest of our days. The first two tracks alone are enough to prove this pedigree. When the first lead riff of the record hits in “The Primal Wave”, you’re circle pitting with your dog in the living room, on the street, in the aisle of an airplane, it doesn’t matter – you’re shoving the person next to you and it’s off to the races. Follow up “Surrender to the Blade” takes a minute to really get going, but the riff drop at 1:20 will have you reaching for the nearest sharp object to brandish, just as I AM intended. And when they bring it back… but slower? Yeah, you’ve got that dawg in you; or in this case, a black panther cerberus yoked by a Frazetta girl holding a skull. Metal.
Sumerlands - Dreamkiller (Eden)
There are many ways to approach the art of the Riff. You could go low and slow, elicting that good ol' stank face which graces this category's banner. You can go ultra-fast, drawing out the admiration (and frenzy) of your listeners by sheer mass of notes. Or you could go for that elusive-yet-fundamental art of crafting the perfect heavy metal riff, the original coal which stoaked the protean fires of metal when they first took shape. On Dreamkiller, Sumerlands firmly cement their standing as masters of this craft, plunging their hands into the hot, molten core of 80's heavy metal and bringing forth an album of galloping riffs, flamboyant synths, soaring vocals, and killer solos. Through these arcane and time-honored arts, they create within the listener the ur-metal emotion: the desire to storm a castle, to run a six minute mile, to do everything, to accomplish our heart's desire. Hail heavy metal! Hail the riff! Hail Sumerlands!
Hath - All That Was Promised
I mean, yeah; obviously I was going to include this album. It's basically all riff, forged by Hath through their dedication to the core sound of death metal. I've said ti before and I'll say it again: these lads love death metal. However, pointing to the whole album is kind of futile since we'll be missing the trees for the forest (shut up, that's how the saying goes). Instead, let us zoom in on one especially pleasing example of Hath's riff-bending: third track "Lithopaedic". The riff's main track, which plays from its beginning, is already good enough, all meat and slobbering maw running along its fuzzy tone. But then you get to two minutes and ten seconds and you realize you've seen nothing yet. There's a whistle which ushers it in and then one of the absolute nastiest, most violent riffs of 2022 erupts into your ears. GOD DAMN. This riff makes me want to bite someone's face off.
Weird flex, but OK
The Callous Daoboys - Celebrity Therapist
I’ve been singing The Callous Daoboys’ praises and hailing them as the Next Big Thing since 2019’s Die On Mars, and goddamn do I love it when I’m right. They’ve become the Face of Mathcore with Celebrity Therapist, if not one of the leading underground -core acts, period. Their genius, led by the inimitable Carson Pace and performed by an ever-expanding roster of musicians that includes both a violinist and saxophonist, is the definition of this category. Every second of Celebrity Therapist is imbued with the kind of creative juice that makes you throw your hands up in the air and wonder how anyone’s supposed to make more music after this.
It’s not that it’s balls to the wall mathcore insanity. There’s plenty of that, sure. It’s that it’s all tethered to truly outstanding, grounding expansions into adjacent domains, pulling alt-rock, pop, post-hardcore, emo, sludge, musical theater, and everything in between into a perfect storm of carefully crafted, compelling contemporary music that rebuffs pseudoscience, frauds, and the plasticine performativity of modern society. It’s very nearly a perfect album, and will likely be the diving board from which both the Daoboys spring into ubiquity and the rest of the scene drowns trying to replicate.
Path of Might - Deep Chrome
Huh? What? No! OK? Wow. I guess? This rules. These are all things which I have found myself repeatedly saying when listening to Deep Chrome for a million times this year. As much as I’ve spun this album, there’s always something in there, in that weird blend of Pink Floyd, Elder, and Red Fang that surprises me. From psychedelic, expansive ambience, through killer riffing, to progressive stoner grooves that go on for miles, Deep Chrome is not immediately extremely weird. But once you let all of the above sink in and take stock of how far you’ve come by the time the album has ended, you’ll scratch your head while trying to figure out how the band made it all so cohesive. And then you’ll go back in again, wanting to put the excellent puzzle that is this album together.
Encenathrakh - Ithate Thngth Oceate
Encenathrakh are probably a supergroup featuring members of Krallice. I say probably, because you won’t find confirmations anywhere public-facing, but significant involvement from Colin Marston is telling. These musicians, who may or may not also be in Krallice, craft intensely technical and brutal death metal through what appears to be free-improvisation. It’s absolutely bonkers and unlistenable. This is either high art or peak ignorance; no in-between. It sounds like sending gravel and silverware down a garbage disposal. It sounds like jazz arranged to be played on pots and pans with sticks and rocks, and it fucking rules.
Most Unrecognised/Under-Appreciated album
Reliqa - I Don't Know What I Am
Nothing grinds my gears quite as much these days more than seeing someone talking about the "nu-metal revival" without even having heard Reliqa's I Don't Know What I Am. This is what the nu-metal revival should sound like: vital, modern, and forward-thinking, not just nostalgia-baiting and "ignorant". Reliqa meld rap and electronics with chunky, aggressive, and progressive metal. This creates an album that's all bounce, channeling the care-free and octane-rich vibes that made nu-metal so good to begin with. It's one of 2022's most underrated release; hopefully, their next album blows up and I can snigger, push my glasses up and say "told you so".
Morrow - The Quiet Earth
This was my #1 album for 2022, and I was kind of shocked that it didn’t make it onto anyone else’s list at Heavy Blog. But then again, I’m not as immersed in the various metal scenes as most of my colleagues here are, so my view of that world is undoubtedly skewed and perhaps what I’m looking for out of heavy music is as well. But upon revisiting The Quiet Earth twice this week, I dunno, it’s pretty hard to see this as anything other than a great fucking album. It offers many of the things I love about Circle Takes The Square - taking the ferocious emotional intensity of screamo and transposing it onto a much more sprawling canvas that is at once progressive and skillful, yet at the same time unpredictable and untamed.
But where CTTS seems determined to boil your brains with a whirlwind of virtuosic performances, Morrow comes to the listener as a more fluid and graspable package. They also feature a muscular crust/sludge backbone that serves as a crucial framework to support the success of the album’s loftier aspirations. Just look at a song like “Totemic.” It takes a special kind of songwriting philosophy and musical chemistry to bring the fearless energy and sustained fierceness of a three minute banger to a song that runs over 13 minutes long. Just try and keep up. Once The Quiet Earth gets going, it never lets up, a gloriously exhausting, earth-scorching parade of big ideas, bigger riffs, and impressive execution.
deathcrash - Return
My #2 album of 2022 is one of those exciting albums that’s both nothing you were actively searching for and everything you didn’t realize you wanted. It seems that at some point in its conception, Return made a number of passes through Slint’s Spiderland, but where it ultimately landed is a unique and cohesive world all its own. Don’t let the languid pacing, disaffected spoken word vocals, or gauzy vibe fool you, this features sharp songwriting and calculated craftsmanship throughout. deathcrash take the idea of soft-loud dynamics and lift it to a place where it can soar.
One of the keys is in their refusal to neglect the soft or force the loud. It seems simple, but it’s a mistake that a lot of bands make (particularly in post-rock, where it is probably the greatest flaw in bands that never crack the top tier). It doesn’t matter how massive your eruptions are if your audience falls asleep before they reach the edge of the volcano. Return is full of songs that demonstrate the necessary patience and skill to build an attractive environment that the listener wants to spend time in. Some of them never even reach a big finish, and it’s fine because the vibes are so engaging even without any added embellishment. And when distortion pedals do get stomped on and things get loud it’s even more a wonder to behold. This one’s a real gem, even more so because it’s so singular and so exquisitely performed and presented.
Grivo - Omit
This Austin shoegaze band was right on the edge of something great with their 2018 album Elude, and with this past year’s Omit they took their first steps into a truly impactful space. Opening track “Trammel” sets the tone with an earworm guitar progression that stamps its signature with a particularly tasty string bend, and is soon accompanied by a steady mid-tempo drum beat that imbues the track with an accessible flow that these types of songs don’t always possess. The album continues from there with a nicely proportioned balance of dreamy soundscapes, breathy vocals echoing from the ether, and thick walls of distorted guitars. It’s clear these guys have figured out the formula, and I’m excited to find out where they take it on future releases.
Wilt, Oceans - Wilt
An EP recorded remotely on opposite sides of the world by two obscure artists I’ve never heard of? A surefire formula for ending up in the year-end superlatives for sure! Seriously, though, this shoegaze team-up between the UK’s Wilt and Australia’s Oceans is a heavy hitter. It’s my kind of shoegaze, in that these guys definitely spend just as much time gazing at their distortion pedals as they do their genre namesake. Slow, loud, melancholy, and pretty, that’s the life for me, and it’s found here rendered in thoroughly fulfilling fashion.
Glassing - Dire and Sulk
This bad motherfucker could have been my album of the year were it to stretch this kind of intensity to LP length. But even at a mere 8 minutes, this is way too filthy to leave off of our superlatives. It’s no secret that this Austin trio is one of the most exciting bands in heavy music right now, featuring a uniquely intoxicating blend of post-hardcore, black metal, sludge, and post-rock. But this is a different kind of beast even for them - raw, violent and unforgiving, this is a side of Glassing that’s not looking to build any soundscapes, only burn them down. I appreciate the diversity found on their full-lengths, but I also very much enjoy hearing them just turning it up all the way and going wild for a few minutes.
rotting in dirt - I Am Eating My Shame
I’m not just saying this because I loved it so much I put a tape on it; rotting in dirt are, with any luck, a vision of the future of metalcore and all its interwoven tributaries. Chaotic, blackened, brutal, sassy, and tender in equal measure, I Am Eating My Shame is a constant balled fist aimed at its listeners’ guts and its own beautiful face. Delivered through a forlorn, vitriolic miasma, they’ve swept up the detritus left in the hurried wake of every new -core band pissing themselves to shamelessly rip off their forebears and infused it with the cunning and forward motion needed to birth a sound and movement all their own. A return to decadence when it was needed most. My heroes.
Late to the party – old albums we discovered
Liturgy - H.A.Q.Q.
I’m not so sure why I never bothered to give Liturgy the time of day before, but this year, I took a deep dive into the discography and fell in love. The highlight is easily 2019’s H.A.Q.Q., a record so wildly experimental and ethereal that it rinsed my brain. Black metal, noise rock, and opera were thrown into a blender and stitched together with glitch influences. Genuinely crushing riffs buried beneath mournful strings and chimes. It’s often weird, and often completely moving. Fuck, I love this record.
Tears for Fears - Songs From The Big Chair
This year, I recognized that a massive part of what makes The 1975 so fun for me are the New Wave and synth pop influences, and to that end, I took a bit of a tour around the high-rated classics in that field, and one of those standout records was Tears for Fears’ 1985 album Songs From The Big Chair. I only knew Tears for Fears as that band from the late night compilation commercials and The Breakfast Club. It goes without saying, but this album is wonderful. It was nice to hear where The 1975 got it – the sax and synth interplay of “The Working Hour” were surely instrumental in The 1975’s entire vibe – but it was also insightful to hear some of the melodic and production vocabulary (so to speak) that would also play a role in Nine Inch Nails. I also can’t help but to hear Leprous and Voyager here. It’s an incredibly influential album for many reasons, and I hate that I had put it off for so long based on some perceived corniness from the band’s big hits (which also rule, by the way).
Scooter – God Save the Rave
So, upon discovering that Electric Callboy were literally just lifting Scooter songs I figured I’d head straight to the source and have been heartily rewarded for my curiosity. There’s a reason this style is called “hardcore” techno. This shit goes hard. Way harder than the majority of metal bands. It’s not even close. Moreover, while it would be easy to dismiss Scooter for their cartoonish image, the similarity of their songs and their sub-vocal songwriting, there’s a reason they’re seen as godfathers and staples of their scene.
Their back catalogue is absolutely stacked with massive bangers that are only made more charming by the band’s willingness to embrace the cartoonish ridiculousness of their image and genre. They’ve also only got better with age. While their previous nineteen albums all have their highlights (best sampled via 2013’s 20 Years of Hardcore compilation) 2021’s God Save the Rave is by far the most consistent and hardest hitting of all their albums. The poignant “FCK 2020” and the title track are obvious standouts, but the album as a whole is surprisingly solid and has got me through more than a few down days since its discovery. I see no reason why your life won’t be equally improved by letting Scooter and “Hardstyle Techno Fridays” into your heart as well.
Swine Overlord - Entheogenesis
“Progressive slam” sounds like an outright contradiction, and more often than not, it has proven to be one as most slam outfits trend technical when they embrace more complex songwriting. But Swine Overlord emphatically bucks the trend with their sophomore album, Entheogenesis. Released in late 2016 by Gore House Productions, the record blends brutal death metal, slam, and progressive flourishes for an entirely unique sound that defies all expectations.
The foundation for Entheogenesis is the same for all slam: crushing riffs. Cavepeople can rejoice in the sheer devastation of bludgeoning death metal base layered over blastbeats galore, while progressive and technical death metal loyalists can appreciate the complexity of tracks like “Invoking an Obsidian Liturgy” happily. Unlike the over-the-top violent tropes that dominate the BDM world, Swine Overlord has constructed a powerful, and at times even poignant, concept album exploring spirituality and the human psyche. Samples are lightly and perfectly deployed, offering delicate soundscapes in contrast to the general devastation. In a true plot twist for an album that is still solidly in the slam/brutal death metal category, Entheogenesis beautifully wraps itself around a piano solo. For that alone, Swine Overlord has made its way onto my top repeat listens in 2022, years late and yet perfectly on-time.
Ephel Duath - The Painter’s Palette
2003’s The Painter’s Palette by Ephel Duath isn’t technically new to me – I’d heard a few tracks off it a long, long time ago when I was first becoming a black hole sucking up any new, weird, exotic metal I could find in the early-to-mid aughts. I didn’t really get it back then. It didn’t stick with me the same way other jazzy, off-kilter acts like Behold… The Arctopus or Blotted Science did. In retrospect, those were weirdly more easily digestible due to their more straightforward tech metal leanings, as funny as that is to say. The Painter’s Palette is, I think, the real unsung formative text underscoring the trends in metal and hardcore alike right now.
Free jazz, horns, strings, and electronics all slither together in a crucible that’s part prog metal, part mathcore to form a mystical, serpentine figure in an unholy union of The Mars Volta and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Going back to listen to the whole record, it’s unbelievable how prescient Ephel Duath were. What trailblazers. The blueprint they created here can be felt in countless modern releases, many of which have been featured in our content here as the year’s best. White Ward, Rivers of Nihil, The Callous Daoboys, Knoll, Fawn Limbs, the list goes on and on. Whether those artists have listened to Ephel Duath specifically or not, the effect The Painter’s Palette had on musicians and the course of multiple genres’ progressions they share lineage with can’t be discounted. This record could have been released yesterday and I’d have believed it and hailed it a triumph in the current climate. If you’re a young musician wanting to break into the proggier, jazzier, mathier side of heavy music – this is your new Bible.