10. Blackbraid - Blackbraid I
(26/08 - independent)
Ever since I discovered Wolves In The Throne Room, I’ve had a proclivity for the kind of black metal that creates atmosphere coming from their connection with nature and/or a pagan mindset. No big surprise then that Blackbraid‘s debut full-length ‘Blackbraid I‘ ended up in my albums of the year list. It basically ticked all the boxes for me, with the Native American angle that almost automatically comes with the nature and pagan driven songs. There haven’t really been many bands that have been approaching this extreme form of music like this, and it stands out for all the right reasons. At times the album sounds absolutely ferocious and harsh, but also simply beautiful, much like the nature it’s inspired by. A stellar production that retains some rawness, resulting in relentless black metal with a stunning and captivating atmosphere, is elevated by the addition of traditional indigenous folk instruments at the right times. All the more impressive that Sgah’gahsowáh, the man behind the powerful and raspy vocals, is responsible for literally everything on this record as it is a one-man project. This is the kind of black metal I get excited about and if you’re any bit into the genre, you shouldn’t sit on this.
9. Cabal - Magno Interitus
(21/10 - Nuclear Blast)
With deathcore seemingly being back on the rise with incredible work from bands like Lorna Shore that even speaks to me even though I’ve never been a fan of the genre, something from that corner was bound to sneak into my albums of the year list. Lorna Shore would have been an easy choice, but somehow ‘Magno Interitus‘, the first release on Nuclear Blast by Cabal spoke even more to me. Their impressive talent to mix all of their musical influences into a blend that is this catchy and engaging is simply mind-blowing, and I’m honestly surprised not more people have picked up on this band and release. Black metal, hardcore, death metal, deathcore with a tendency to enhance the whole crushing mix with some electronic touches and an absolutely relentlessly oppressive atmosphere, really caught me by surprise. And adding to that already banging result, they had guest appearances from Joe ‘Bad’ Badolato (Fit For An Autopsy), Simon Olsen (Baest) and industrial duo John Cxnnor to create the amazing track ‘Blod af Mit‘. Every time I wanted something that sounds fresh, heavy as fuck and still catchy as hell, I turned towards this release, and if you haven’t checked it out yet you’re sorely missing out.
8. Zeal & Ardor - Zeal & Ardor
(11/02 - MVKA)
Zeal & Ardor blew me away with the debut album ‘Devil Is Fine‘ through the mix of black metal, blues, soul and devilish themes, something so fresh that to this day it’s still one of my favorite albums of the past decade. The second release ‘Stranger Fruit‘ didn’t hit home as much with me somehow. But with 2022’s release ‘Zeal & Ardor‘ it felt like they found more of a balance between what Zeal & Ardor was as a one-man raw project and what it was transitioning into an actual band. The album has all the extremity and soulfulness I’ve come to love of this band, besides blackened extreme metal, there are moments of industrial music, hip hop beats, and the expected bluesy notes. Some of the songs are even more extreme than what you could find on the debut album, even more highlighted by the smoothness of the overall production. Zeal & Ardor continues to amaze me to no end and I truly hope to catch this band live some time very soon.
7. Machine Head - ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN
(26/08 - Nuclear Blast)
Machine Head has been one of my favorite bands for the past 2 decades, and I was somewhat disappointed that their more recent releases didn’t really connect with me. There were some good songs there, but nothing compared to the excitement I still have about ‘The Blackening‘ to this day. When songs like ‘Stop The Bleeding‘ emerged, I started to get some hope again that the next album might be killer yet again. While that song was not featured on ‘ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN‘, that hope was very much met. And how! The first concept album from these groove masters is striking gold and comparisons to the instant classic ‘The Blackening‘ appeared rather quickly. Catchy and aggressive bangers like ‘NØ GØDS, NØ MASTERS‘ and ‘CHØKE ØN THE ASHES ØF YØUR HATE‘ spoke of a seemingly rejuvenated Machine Head after the line-up overhaul the band underwent a couple of years ago, and I’m all there for it. It’s fast, it’s aggressive, it grooves like no other and has not a single track that I wanted to skip while listening to the album. Machine Head is back, baby!
6. Wolfheart - King Of The North
(16/09 - Napalm Records)
I don’t think there has been a single year with a Wolfheart release where it didn’t end up being one of my favorite albums of the year. And here we are again: Wolfheart‘s 2022 album ‘King Of The North‘ was most definitely one of my most listened to albums last year. Every time I wonder how Tuomas Saukkonen and his bandmates are going to top their earlier masterpiece, and every time they somehow manage to surprise me again. Yes, this album has not really a distinct shift in sound, as soon as a song of this album plays, you just know it’s Wolfheart. It’s done so perfect by these talented musicians that this is yet again an album filled with melancholy tinged melodeath classics that are simply epic in its scale. Add to that surprise guest appearances on vocals by Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage on ‘Ancestor‘ and Karl Sanders from Nile on ‘Cold Flame‘, and the more frequently use of Vagelis Karzis‘ clean vocals, and you get enough to at least match with all the other great Wolfheart records. There are even moments that they manage to rein in the brutality somewhat to create the kind of atmosphere that is reminiscent of some of the Nordic masters of epic like Borknagar and Enslaved. If you’re any bit into Scandinavian/Nordic (melodic death) metal, you have to like this.
5. Wiegedood- There's Always Blood at the End of the Road
(14/01 - Century Media Records)
When I heard some of the first singles of Wiegedood‘s latest release ‘There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road‘, I knew this was going to be something really special. The black metal they bring forth has been taken to extremes that you don’t come across all too often within the genre. The use of weird rhythms, haunting samples and a constant noise underneath everything results into an almost uncomfortable soundscape. It’s oppressive in every sense, it’s filthy and beautiful in all its extreme forms. Now that they’ve wrapped up their earlier trilogy, this album really seems like it’s coming from a band that is looking for a new identity or chapter while still sounding extremely well-thought-out and brilliantly put together.
4. Doodseskader - Year One
(18/11 - Isolation Records)
I guess you could say that I somewhat have a bit of a tendency to like the weird and unconventional in music of late. Doodseskader‘s music, that they themselves branded as “sonic terror”, is an intriguing and captivating blend of everything going from sludge to grunge to 90s hip hop. They don’t seem to shy away from going to places you might not expect musically and simply every single piece of music they released is steeped in emotionally laden soundscapes and relentless pummeling interlaced with atmospheric bits. Yet another one of those bands that sounds completely unique and can’t get enough from. Tracks like ‘Alive & Not Well’ that slowly build up into an explosion of aggression, or apparent ragers like ‘Bloemen Noch Kransen‘ that have their quiet, calm moments to violently shake you awake with a stomp in the face are only small examples of the excellence that you can find on this debut full-length. And this wall of sound is created by just 2 dudes, a bass and a drum kit… unreal!
3. Malevolence - Malicious Intent
(20/05 - Nuclear Blast Records)
There is just something about that bounce that most hardcore brings that not a lot of other music does as much to me. Whenever some proper hardcore (punk) hits me the right way, I feel the need to dive into a moshpit, to nod my head and simply ready to take on the world. And when that gets so expertly combined with the groovy kind of metal, I just can’t help myself but turn back to it a lot. Hatebreed gave me this feeling some decades ago, and this year Malevolence brought that same excited feeling with their new album ‘Malicious Intent‘. While there were other great hardcore releases in 2022, I somehow almost every time turned back to Malevolence whenever I needed that bounce and pump up. A killer album that will shoot them up into the stratosphere, having a lot of people turned towards them deservingly so.
2. Psychonaut - Violate Consensus Reality
(28/10 - Pelagic Records)
Some years ago, Psychonaut‘s debut full-length ‘Unfold the God Man‘ was undeniably one of my favorite albums to come out, and with their sophomore full-length ‘Violate Consensus Reality‘ they’ve done it again for me. Their progressive post-metal has both the softness and atmospheric bits that you’ve come to expect in post-metal/-rock and the harshness and aggression of sludge, taking you on an emotional ride where smoothness goes hand in hand with violent outbursts. Even more than before these extremes highlight the high quality level of each other and the music overall and gives me hints of the genius of bands like Tool, Mastodon, the classics in 70s (psychedelic) rock and of course Belgium’s great collection of similar bands. Having teamed up with Amenra‘s Colin and Brutus’ Stefanie on the title track was also a damn good move, resulting in one of my favorite tracks of the whole year. There seems to be something in the water in Belgium considering these sludgy post-metal type of bands looking at all the highly unique and talented artists coming from there somehow.
1. The Callous Daoboys - Celebrity Therapist
(02/09 - MNRK Heavy)
In 2022, it seems my thirst for chaos has prevailed. So chaos on top it is! The Callous Daoboys brings the kind of mathcore that is all over the place, making you uncomfortable while you have a bit of a musical orgasm. On ‘Celebrity Therapist‘ they hit you in the face with a sledgehammer through some absolutely raging passages where vocalist Carson screams the lungs out of his body, to on the flip of a dime having them softly and lovingly caress you with smooth jazzy bits. The overall madness of the songs will not be something that everyone can stomach with sometimes moments that you’re really put off by the sudden changes, but I felt myself drawn back into this album every time I needed my brain to somewhat reset itself. And I love the quirky humor of a band that doesn’t take themselves too serious while kicking some serious ass. Take for instance the single ‘The Elephant Man In The Room‘ that perfectly shows off the musical mindfuck and silly humor through a video where they act as a church band spewing their madness interlaced with smooth choir and violin bits and at some point Carson even screaming over some jazz while seated on a bear Putin style. Phenomenal band with a maddening good and uncompromising album.
Every year it’s a struggle again to limit my top choices to a top 10, and on top of that while compiling my favorite albums I constantly still discover music that I had missed somehow, so here are some that just as well could have made it into my list, in no particular order:
Lionheart – Welcome to the West Coast III
Stray From The Path – Euthanasia
Hoaxed – Two Shadows
Messa – Close
Nova Twins – Supernova
Celeste – Assassine(s)
Freja – Tides
Okkultist – O.M.E.M.
Bloodywood – Rakshak
8 Kalacas – Fronteras
Author & Punisher – Krüeller
Future Palace – Album Run
God Alone – ETC
Rolo Tomassi – Where Myth Becomes Memory
Thotcrime – D1G1T4L DR1FT
Ianai – Sunir
Vermilia – Ruska
The Interrupters – In The Wild
Blood Command – Praise Armageddonism
Brutus – Unison Life
Devin Townsend – Lightwork
Dirty Shirt – Get Your Dose Now!
Kardashev – Liminal Rite
Saviour – Shine & Fade
Tallah – The Generation Of Danger
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