King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation (psychedelic stoner thrash)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard don't always play thrash metal, but when they do, it absolutely slaps. Three years following their first, seemingly one-off foray into the world of full blown and surprisingly potent heavy metal with the gloriously titled Infest the Rats Nest (2019) the Giz brought the heavy back for 2022's more doom-oriented Omnium Gatherum and delivered what is probably their most comprehensive and consistent record to date (once you get past the first song that is...). Fourteen months, three full-lengths, two live albums and a demo-compilation later and they're back at it and, once again, very much delivering the goods.
PetroDragonic Apocalypse is a sludgier, stonier affair than the more frantic Infest the Rats Nest but also much, much, much more definitively metal than Omnium Gatherum, which was still a definitively psychedelic record. In that way, it feels like a true sequel to the former, with all the elevated experience and complexity of the latter. If Infest the Rats Nest was the sound of King Gizzard playing heavy metal, then Petrodragonic Apocalypse is the sound of King Gizzard as a fully realised heavy metal band. Whatever way you look at it, the album is an instant standout entry in the Lizard Wizards' eclectic and expansive discography, and solid evidence that—out of everything they've tried their hand at over the years—the thing they might just at their best when they put the pedal to the metal. ...which is rather ironic, given the album's concept.
Thy Catafalque – Alföld (progressive black metal)
Thy Catafalque have really refined their approach over their last few records. Their avant-garde approach to progressive black metal has always been intriguing and often impressive, but beginning with 2020's naive it's also become a lot more palatable. 2021's Vadak might not have been as idiosyncratic or unhinged as the project's earlier offerings, but it's also the only Thy Catafalque album I've found myself going back to more than once, which probably has as much to do with their compositions becoming more focused as it does with their becoming more aligned with the kind of Enslaved-leaning progressive black metal I'm personally drawn to. Either way, Alförd takes the more refined template of its predecessor and reintroduces some of the danger and unpredictability back into the mix, while also somehow making the songs more memorable and instantaneous. Fans of the unbridled experimentation of their early releases might disagree but, for me, this is the first time I've found myself fully drawn to a Thy Catafalque album as a singular statement, rather than a simple (albeit often perplexing) curiosity.