When I was thinking of who I'd like to have a guest list from for 2022, Christian Cosentino's name was at the top of the list for a few reasons. First, the music he makes is intricate and made up of many different genre influences so getting to peek into the kind of music he makes is very interesting. But, more importantly perhaps, our guest lists are an opportuntiy to shine an even brigther light on the albums and groups we think are most underrated. That is certainly the case with Cosentino's who's brand of bright, busy, electronic, and grandiose black metal has been my constant companion since he released Lawn in 2021. High Rising Times, his release from this year, is definitely one of my most played albums of the year.
And so, here we are, telling you again to listen to this project if you're in any way interested in progressive music, black metal, and the fertile spaces in between them. And if that extolling is not enough, perhaps breezing through the man's list of top albums of the year might be, since it is certainly is an interesting one! With undeniable pop influences, through satisfying metal mainstays, dalliances with black metal, and other curios, this list is filled with something for everyone. It sort of speaks to the diversity Cosentino's music itself, filled with...pretty much everything I listed above as well! So, dive into one of the more varied guest lists we've run this year and, don't forget, into High Rising Times itself!
P.S please listen to the winterquilt album that's on this list. If you think you know what it sounds like, no you don't. It's an adventure.
1. The Weeknd - Dawn FM
I guess almost everyone has heard The Weeknd but I’d highly recommend listening beyond the hits if you haven’t done so. It's hard to describe objectively what makes Dawn FM so good because it mainly comes down to the extremely strong mood it evokes. Even though this album is catchy and accessible there's a miserable undertone to it all, in general The Weekend’s music has a super dark and nocturnal atmosphere which I love.
The production here sounds massive and is full of small details and embellishments that richen the atmosphere as you notice them. Dawn FM never gets old for me and it's just one example of music at the peak of the mainstream that has complete artistic integrity. Also, while I’m not usually a big fan of thematic elements in albums I’d argue that the radio station concept (and forward momentum of the songs) makes this the greatest driving album of all time, especially at night or in the rain.
2. Ghost - IMPERA
As Ghost drift further away from their doomier roots I like them more and more. For me the band’s satanic thematics work even better with the arena rock/80s metal sound on IMPERA than they ever have. It highlights the irony in the music even more when you can vividly imagine a stadium full of people singing along to these highly catchy yet blasphemous tunes.
Imagery aside though this album simply resonates with me more than Ghost’s previous work. "Kaisarion" is energetic 80s metal combined with the “ABBAisms” of Ghost and a hint of their usual darkness. The combination results in a very “cool” and grandiose attitude. I’ll admit that the album very finely straddles the line of being too campy in a few moments but there's never a point where I can’t stomach it. Weirdly enough this album which further stripped away a lot of the conventionally dark aspects of Ghost’s sound is what turned me from a casual admirer of the band into a massive fan. Something about it really works for me.
3. Nas - King’s Disease III
I seem to be a bit picky with Hip-Hop and I still have a long way to go in familiarising myself with the genre. That being said I tend to really like what I like and Nas’ recent work with Hit-Boy has really resonated with me. Hit-Boy’s beats on King’s Disease III (and all of his albums with Nas) are super emotive. They have a very epic, nostalgic and bittersweet atmosphere with a lot of cinematic elements and cool vintage samples twisted into futuristic sounding loops. Importantly Nas’ rapping perfectly complements and enhances the beats and vice versa.
It comes through that Nas is aware that he has nothing left to prove and yet at the same time there's a burning youthful passion in his performances. He still has something to say which imparts a further emotional quality into his rapping and by extension the music. I can’t emphasise how well the rapping and production play off one another. There's a breezy feeling to the album and it sounds mature and wisened but still tough and youthful at the same time.
4. winterquilt - Monster Island and the Satan of Fire
I was a huge fan of winterquilt’s last album O’Discordia. It often resembles metal but it's arguably more of an electronic/vaporwavey album. On the other hand, the foundation of Monster Island and the Satan of Fire is metal instrumentation but created solely with midi instruments which are embellished by additional synth layers and electronic production. Along with the harsh vocals it all culminates into a brutal, industrial and arcadey sound.
It’s worth saying that the “midi metal thing” doesn’t ever feel like a gimmick though. The album is full of top-notch “guitar-work,” cool rhythms and the songs are long and epic with satisfying clean-sung choruses. It would all be worthy of praise in of itself without the unique midi aspect which only serves to further set the album apart. The fact that the last song is an Anaal Nathrakh cover which also perfectly coheres with the rest of the album is testament to how authentic the metal composition is here. That being said it could be argued that I’m taking it too seriously because the album is also extremely fun and tongue-in-cheek. The humorous aspect of it all is just another layer to this crazy, brutal and progressive “midi-metal” opus.
5. i, of the trees and wind - Cry of the Forest
IOTTAW’s Cry of the Forest is one of the only traditional sounding black metal albums that has grabbed me in the last few years. It has a classic-sounding fuzzy guitar tone, slow hypnotic riffs and the perfect amount of Summoning-esque keyboards. The vocals have a high-pitched, cold and intense quality that reminds me of Paysage d’Hiver’s vocals. It is an awesome combination of elements and most importantly the songwriting clearly comes from an emotional place. There's a warm and relaxing “golden forest” type of atmosphere on this album but it also taps into (and is grounded by) the darkness and despair required of black metal.
6. Bjork - Fossora
7. Trhä - endlhëdëhaj qáshmëna ëlh vim innivte
8. Spider God - Fly in the Trap
9. Abintra - Symphony of the Evergreen ll
10. Cara Neir - Phantasmal