I always love this time of year. Everybody just slows down and enjoys the last month of the year before getting into the new swing of things that is the coming year. It’s a time to rest, relax, and maybe do some reflection. It’s that last part where we’ll focus today because we got some tunes worth thinking more about. But in that reflection, I think we’ll find we can rest and relax as well. So let’s take a moment to talk about the State of Doom and some records that defined Doomsday in 2022.
Reflections: What Are We Doing Here?
I don’t want to start off too gloomy, but listening to doom metal this year was kinda tough. I don’t mean to say there wasn’t anything worth listening to because that’s simply not true. I also don’t mean to say that there wasn’t enough to listen to because that isn’t accurate either. But it does seem like the scene is stagnating.
Whenever I scroll through Bandcamp looking for new doom for the masses, I mostly find 3 types:
- Blues-based heavy rock bands
- Stoner bands that either write about space, marijuana, or marijuana in space
- Bands who just make a ton of noise and present themselves as “sludge” for lack of a better category
This makes the deep dives incredibly monotonous and derivative, which is how most of the scene feels these days. Yes, bands rip off other bands all the time, but that’s not the same as what I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is a lot of ideas which are great but not original at all. It just makes the search for new things kind of boring.
That’s not to say there aren’t diamonds in the rough. Those exist and sometimes become personal favorites. But they aren’t great records from bands doing new things. That’s what’s really missing these days: doom metal needs new ideas.
To a certain extent, those new ideas exist as well. There are more bands dipping their toes into different ideas than in previous years. I personally listened to more genre-bending records of death doom, blackened doom, and many others this year than I have in years past. That’s a great thing!
We also have these new veins of doom. They aren’t necessarily “new” ideas per se, but they feel different. We’re seeing more and more bands go in a traditional metal direction a la Green Lung and Haunt. Other bands like Spirit Adrift and Khemmis are modernizing those traditional sounds by simply making them heavier. Bands that stick to more underground sounds are going into a more morose and gothic angle like Swallow the Sun. These may not all be new ideas, but they certainly feel like they’re dabbling with experimentation more than the derivatives are.
Here’s what’s missing: true greatness. Doom needs a band and a record to come along that really shakes everyone up. I think we’ve had a lot of records in recent years that doom fans think are incredible, but these same records haven’t shaken up metal like others have. I think there are some records on this year’s list that have that potential, but we haven’t seen something like Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race. That’s what we really need to have doom explode back on the scene again.
I don’t want the intro to suggest nothing good happened this year. Lots of great stuff came out! There were quite a few fantastic records in particular, many of which we agree on! So with that, let’s get the hits.
Eden’s List Of The Best Slow And Low And Also Some Glow
- Humanotone - A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand
I’ve written so much about this album this year, a lot of it for the End of Year wrap-up posts, because it is, after all, my favorite album of 2022. And so, there’s no real point to re-introduce you to this album here, again; chances are you’ve already read me writing about why I love it so much. So, instead, I’d like to use this specific post to talk about one track on it, in particular “Even Though”, the last track, and use it to perhaps approach what makes A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand work so well from a fresh perspective.
It helps that this track has a lot of what makes the rest of the album so good. First, it has the unique vocals in its center. I’m not sure if it’s the slight accent or just their timbre, but there’s something so warm about the vocals on this album and that warmth gels immensely well with the rest of the “warm” tones found it. Those tones are also cleverly used on the rest of the instruments; listen to how the synths interact with the “darker” riff leading up to the five minute mark, where the track’s main (and heavier) riff keeps contrasting off the synths. This leads up to the amazing scream at the track’s center and the explosive synth and guitar solos that follow it.
Everything is so unique but so well grounded, each part working off of the other to create the tension and forward momentum of the track forwards. Much like the album as a whole, “Even Though” wastes little time, every piece building up the whole into what it ends up being, as the outro starts building up four and a half minutes before the track ends. These passages, a culmination of the entire album, are my favorite; the vocals are so emotional, the guitars so electric, the synths so expansive, the quiet passages so devastatingly beautiful and the heaviness so tasteful and filled with impact. The catharsis is real, all of the emotions of the track and album distilled into these last few minutes. God, I love this album.
2. Elder - Innate Passage
Much like the album above this one, I’ve already spent so many words extolling the virtues of Elder’s Innate Passage that it seems silly to go through all of that again. But hey, now that I think about it and I’m writing these words, isn’t that a good indication of how central doom and stoner were to my 2022? Many of the albums on this list are some of my favorite this year and I find myself writing about them over and over again.
When I look back at my own narrative of the year, I find that this idea works with the rest of the story I’m telling; I didn’t listen to as much music as I did in previous years but what I did listen to impacted me extremely strongly. I’ve had a tough year! I started a new, and very demanding, position at work, the blog’s editorial body got cut in half, and the world continued being, you know, the world. Throughout all that exhaustion and drama, I found myself craving deeper, more specific connections with my music rather than the mass of consumption that characterized previous years. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I still listened to more albums that the average person (about 900) but nowhere near what I did before (around 1200).
Out of all of that emotional connection, it’s likely that Innate Passage is the one album I’ve resonated with the most. It’s just everything I love about music in one package, the progressive undertones of early Elder, the expansive, musical sprawl of current Elder, the evocative imagery and texture of all periods of the band. I haven’t listened to this album without crying out in song or just plain crying or rocking in my chair even once. It’s always a ride, always a gut-punch, always a culmination of, again, everything I love about music. It’s a fantastic album, showcasing how far Elder have come as song-writers and as musicians.
3. Chrome Ghost - House of Falling Ash
No one album has beguiled more than House of Falling Ash in 2022. As I mentioned when I originally wrote it up for this column, it’s cavernous like no other, utilizing negative musical space to create the feeling that you’re descending down sort of spiral into a dark cave. As such, it is not exactly an album that I reach out to on a daily basis; it’s hard to “square” its aesthetics and its emotional palette with day to day life. However, when I am in the mood for something dark and transportative, something that takes over my physical sensorium with its arresting approach to structure, and its uncompromising vision for doom, I got to this album. There really were no others this year that just took its heaviness, mystical allure, and bottomless silences and came right to your door, taking no prisoners.
4. Dreadnought - The Endless
Not only this year but throughout the last few years, I have written about Dreadnought before. I’ll keep it short - if you haven’t been following this band’s growth from strength to strength, you are seriously missing out on some of the most emotional, interesting, and incredibly progressive doom out there. The Endless is the last step in whatever chapter they were on before and the first of their most promising one yet.
5. The Otolith - Folium Limina
My biggest mea culpa of the year is sleeping on this album when it was released. I have quite yet figured out why it didn’t click with me originally because now I go through periods where I am completely obsessed with it and want to listen to nothing else. It is not SubRosa but nor do I want it to be; it is a step forward for this group of musicians, continuing their articulation of ethereal, magnificent doom.
6. Famyne: II: The Ground Below
The “vocal performance of the year” award probably goes to this album, at least in my book. There’s something so hauntingly unique about the evocative vocals on The Ground Below which elevates the entire album into new heights. Don’t get me wrong, the music is plenty powerful and pleasing. But the vocals are in a class of their own, cleverly merging the size of doom vocals with the emotional impact of grungier influences. True ear candy.
7. Messa - Close
Just listen to the yelps and cries that dot this album to fully understand its energies. It’s like riding a horse at full gallop (yes, I’ve done that); it constantly feels like you’re about to fall off but Messa gives you just enough time to catch your breath before they burst forward again.
8. Towers of Jupiter - III
This album is so fragile and so beautiful for its fragility. Expertly crafted and supremely understated stoner rock which straddles the borders of post-rock, doom, and grunge in exquisitely pretty ways.
9. Soldat Hans - Anthaupt
The masters of melancholy return once again to push us fully off the cliffs of our despair. 2022’s most “to be handled with extreme care” albums for the depressive qualities of its riffs only, without even mentioning the soul-wrenching vocals.
10. Abrams - In the Dark
It’s been a true pleasure seeing Abrams go from strength to strength over the years. Their formula of poppy, bouncy stoner rock is brought to bear on this release once again, creating a fun, energetic album.
Pete’s Heavy Hitters and Mega Riffs
- Mizmor & Thou - Myopia
This one completely took us all by surprise, and it’s one that’s stuck with me the entire year. Thou is no stranger to collaborations, but Mizmor certainly is. The artists are able to seamlessly combine their music to create an expansive work representing a pure synthesis of their abilities. I was super impressed by how well it all comes together and how it really doesn’t sound like either artists. Myopia becomes a record far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a record I returned to all year and likely will again in the future.
2. Red Eye - The Cycle
Spain’s Red Eye took me completely by surprise. The Cycle sets the perfect doom metal scene: a primordial fantasy world ripe for an epic adventure. The lyrics give that impression, but the music itself does as well. Huge riffs and dramatic dynamics set the scene of wide open deserts and adventurers casting their lot on the wilds. Some of the melodies have been engraved in my brain and are very difficult to shake for good reason. I’ll be rocking this record for a long time yet to come.
3. Wo Fat - The Singularity
As you might have been able to tell, I love a good sprawling epic of a record. I like it when a record tells me a story or creates a universe different from my own. So you can understand why I adored Wo Fat’s latest, The Singularity. The heavy blues and stoner rock trio did what I always hope stoner blues bands do: talk about anything else but weed. Yea, that’s a pretty low bar, but The Singularity is a lot more than that, too. This kind of sound is usually pretty “dime a dozen” to me, but the band was able to expand on it with their songwriting to keep the momentum of each track high. Ya gotta love it.
4. Humanotone - A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand
Much like Eden said, Humanotone is a band we’ve talked a lot about this year. More specifically on the newest record, A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand. It feels like the perfect prog record for our time. A lot of psychedelia and doom is mashed together in a satisfying and tasteful package. So much about this record is so unique in the myriad ways we’ve discussed this year, so if you haven’t already listened then what are you waiting for?
5. Dream Unending - Song of Salvation
Imagine my surprise when Dream Unending, creators of my favorite album last year, come out with a new full length record this year. AND it’s a top ten of the year for me. Absolutely brilliant. This band has pretty quickly mastered their shoegaze version of death-doom, which I’m now defining as dream metal. Song of Salvation is like Tide Turns Eternal but more so. It’s the building upon a solid foundation that makes it so great to me. That and the fact that a metal band beautifully incorporates a 12-string guitar.
6. Dreadnought - The Endless
I hate to ditto Eden here, but ditto Eden. With the rate that we refer to Dreadnought on this blog, you’d have to be quite foolish to not see this coming. The Endless is simply the latest brilliant release from Colorado’s progressive doom geniuses. It further builds upon what the band has always done and cements their legacy as the face of doom to come.
7. Worm - Bluenothing
This is likely the last time we’ll get to write about Worm on Doomsday. Not because they’re doing anything wrong but because they’re simply growing beyond genre labels to me. Bluenothing shows the band further strengthening their blackened take on death-doom and really making this their own. For a record of only 4 tracks and less than 30 minutes long, Bluenothing speaks volumes.
8. The Otolith - Folium Limina
There were many sad faces here on the blog when SubRosa called it quits, but you had to know such a grouping of talented musicians and songwriters wouldn’t stay down for too long, Folium Limina is a brilliant work of sludgy melodies incorporating a wide variety of styles and sounds. It’s a real treat to listen to over and over again, and it’s a treat I’ve relented to many times this year and years to come.
9. Telekinetic Yeti - Primordial
I don’t cover for the fact that a lot of my top 10 and 25 lists tend to be a mix of critically praised records and albums I just personally really love. Telekinetic Yeti’s newest Primordial is the latter, though I also think it’s incredibly made. The band’s wall of sound is exactly what a yeti might make. It’s loud, brash, and completely unapologetic about it. What more do you need to know?
10. Messa - Close
Us talking about Messa feels similar to talking about Dreadnought. Each release automatically feels like a best of the year candidate simply on reputation alone. The swirling psychedelia mixes well with the progressive songwriting and dark ambiance. Close is just another great Messa release.
Jordan’s Lorge and Engorged Favorites
- Cloakroom - Dissolution Wave
As an albums, not singles person until death, Dissolution Wave has a special appeal. Cloakroom’s “space western” concept is executed exceptionally well as this cohesive and varied collection of uniquely affective heavy shoegaze is emotional as it is colorful. It’s earnest and heartfelt, tracks like alt-country gem “Doubts,” the textural and stunning title track, or the delicate-yet-propulsive “Lambspring” unearth a side of the band that hasn’t quite blossomed like this before. “A Force At Play” even sees the Indiana trio flexing their spacey dream pop muscles before floating into the gravity of a charismatic lead. The songwriting is top-notch, each track finds a landmark moment or unforgettable melody with an almost casual or happenstance kind of feel. It’s just so natural and unforced that these moments never get old, the closing minutes of “Dissembler” hit just as hard as they did when I first heard it. It’s by no means the heaviest thing I latched onto this year, but it’s certainly the most awe-inspiring of all the slow and low from 2022.
2. Pyrithe - Monuments to Impermanence
Embrace the weirdness of these Pittsburghers. For those never to shy away from a challenge, Monuments to Impermanence is a buffet of sludge’s gnarliest and most complex recesses. Time signature fuckery, blast beat barrages, and melty, amorphic riffing make this one of the more interesting listens I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s uniquely atmospheric, oft more progressive and post-y than one would fancy a sludge record while maintaining a startlingly confrontational and insatiable, unrelenting attitude. At times I’m wondering what Pyrithe can’t do, they have that Mr. Bungle-y limitless and unpredictable potential. It’s utterly fascinating, indulgent, and uncompromising, altering my expectations for what’s possible with progressive sludge, but more importantly, Monuments to Impermanence is another early-in-the-year release that didn’t forfeit its grip on my earholes. Please, please let there be a vinyl release in the works.
3. Chrome Ghost - House of Falling Ash
Now that Neurosis is dead, I hope folks find Chrome Ghost as a suitable replacement, because House of Falling Ash certainly the fuck makes the case that they’re ready to fill those shoes. An impressive vocal performance courtesy of Jake Kilgore leads the way, but I’ll be damned if the oof-inducing riffage and brilliant, dynamic longform songwriting doesn’t match it. No band this year has made good on one-upping their previous release in such a huge way (much less an album that kicked as much ass as 2019’s The Diving Bell). House of Falling Ash goes super big and is deserving of all the praise that comes with making good on such ambition. Crank this up and revel in its dark beauty.
4. Lathe - Tongue of Silver
If you would’ve told me I’d have a countrified instrumental doom album on my ‘22 faves list, I wouldn’t have said “Oh yeah?” but rather “OH YEAH!” Lathe’s novel take is a fascinating one, adding compelling layers of expression through pedal steel and twangy, country tones. Tongue of Silver’s western feel is timely, and thanks to contemporaries like Wayfarer and Trophy Scars, it seems like the twang thang just might be the new thing to sweep extreme music. Hopefully that means this isn’t the last we hear of Lathe, because this is simply fan-fucking-tastic.
5. Mares of Thrace - The Exile
“Old-school” prog-sludge heads are fucking up big time if they didn’t give The Exile its due. The duo that is Mares of Thrace are certainly well-versed in the Mastodon-ian sphere of prog sludge, yet there’s a kinda rawer and more DIY feel to what’s going on here. It’s lean, yet about as high proof as it gets for a duo. The proggy wank is abandoned in favor of truly tight songwriting that makes these six-minute endeavors both expansive and adventurous whilst fleeting and engaging.
6. Cavernlight - As I Cast Ruin Upon the Lens That Reveals My Every Flaw
Handily the thematically darkest of my ‘22 faves, As I Cast Ruin… hits like a ton of bricks. As noise rock creeps its way further and further into the extreme music “mainstream,” it’ll be bands like Cavernlight that’ll inevitably get name-dropped for sparking inspiration for some of these darker, noisier forays. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until it becomes all the rage, because this bad boy’ll hold you over for years. In short, this is 2022’s underrated masterpiece of dark art.
7. Ruby the Hatchet - Fear is a Cruel Master
Is anyone as reliable for ass-kickin’ hard rock as Ruby the Hatchet? Absolutely not. Fear is a Cruel Master has a sense of urgency and groundedness that previous releases never quite hit, and as a result, their latest feels fresh but nonetheless essential.
8. Forlesen - Black Terrain
Nobody is doing blackened doom quite like Forlesen. Black Terrain is an insistent and compelling record packed with wondrous epic doom, scathing black metal, transporting psych, and so much more. Longform music lovers have a lot to sink into here, and Forlesen delivers on every minute of it. Don’t overlook this one, Black Terrain is still growing on me with each listen.
9. Dungeon Weed - The Eye of the Icosahedron
I love this band, and this is their best record yet. It’s as-advertised stoner doom of the very highest order. Fuzz freaks can’t not love this skuzzy and super trippy release. The Eye of the Icosahedron is as conceptually and sonically refined as stoner doom gets, crystallizing the best of the genre in a way that can only be rivaled only by firing up Dopesmoker for the 420th time.
10. Worm - Bluenothing
In essence, Bluenothing is a new-and-improved version of 2019’s fantastic Foreverglade. The addition of Phil Tougas takes Worm to new highs with dazzling guitar work, but the funeral/death doom foundation is also better than ever. The atmosphere and vibe is picture-perfect here, and there’s little doubt that this’ll find its way into my ears on the reg for some time to come.