TOP ALBUMS OV 2022 W/ A SPOOKY MANSION, IRON GODDESS OF MERCY, AND HANS!
By the grace of Dane, we’ve survived another swirly ’round the bowl. That means it’s time for LISTMANIA 2K22 DAY 1, MOTHERFLUSHERS. Prepare to forfeit thy wallet and whittle thy wishlist. Here to coax the cash from your coffers are A Spooky Mansion, Iron Goddess of Mercy, and Hans!
A Spooky Mansion
11. Every crossover record I bought this year
In no particular order, the toxified slurry of Cruel Bomb, Doomsday, Foreseen, High Command, Inhuman Nature, Ninth Realm, Rake-Off, and the bottomless keg of Municipal Waste deserve a spot for keeping me peppy all year when I had no ear for anything beyond crunchy, fast food chuggage. Well done, fellas, print more trucker hats and I’ll buy them.
10. Ithaca – They Fear Us
Hassle Records | Mini
Hardcore is fight music, but in Ithaca‘s hands it’s also bright music. The riffs come marching in, regimented, and slowly blur in a twist of reminiscence, longing, inner struggle, to worm in deeper to your amygdala. What should I call it, mathemiasmic? Just a whole world of contrast in the hydraulic force stuttering breaks and the resplendent sonorous texture emanating between. They Fear Us speaks to my (perhaps too prolonged) bouts of depression and coaxes the righteous rage back out while my self-pity is set aside. One hand holds the soothing tea, the other holds the lit Molotov.
9. Conan – Evidence Of Immortality
Napalm Records | Interview
Thomas Hobbes got it slightly wrong: In the prehistoric state of nature, life is nasty, brutish, and SLOW. What I love about Conan is the simultaneous loyalty to their extremely distinct style and the subtle progression from record to record that somehow keeps me infinitely excited for more DJUN-DJUN-DJUN-DJUN-DJUN-WAAAAAAAAGHHHH. The UK doom clan has spent years glacially developing from primordial drone soup to paleolithic stone hammer doom, and now stands at the cusp of the next epoch of bloodshed. The sound only gets more gargantuan, more elaphantine, and in places even picks up enough speed to go from bludgeon beats to blast beats. haha Conan riffs go brrrrr.
I like my grind with a little drop of melancholy. Me and Cloud Rat are hitting it off so far, insofar as they keep me clinging for dear life on a raft afloat their choppy roiled seas, and in return I tell folks that they’re a pretty solid grind band with flexible riffs and not to pay any heed to my waterlogged boots. Beyond their rock solid blasting tremolo ground game, Threshold comes peppered with the heart murmurs of surged tempo and chromatic smear that add some panicked panache to the frenzy. Grindcore is the shortform poetry to metal at large’s multistanza verse, so perhaps it’s not so contradictory to say Cloud Rat is as elegant as they are extreme.
I don’t think I need to give any fanfare to the boilerplate death metal goods that Exhumed have so handily served up since their inception. Matt Harvey remains one of death metal’s A-list escrimeurs and has put that expertise to work in side bands aplenty, and yet still keeps a stuffed body bag of primo riffs for his pride and joy. And maybe it’s just me, but I can feel a bit more of Sebastian Phillips’ grindwork popping out on this one, particularly on the lead single. It feels like a nice reunion with your friends, same old pizzas and beers, same old shot-on-shiteo stomach-turners.
6. Saidan – Onryo II: Her Spirit Eternal
Jems Label | Spooky Roundup
A black metal album that never stops swelling and thirsting for redemption. While this style of black metal is pounded together with the hammer and nail of its punk influences, Onryo II expertly threads its tonal storytelling to match the baroque sweep of the philosophically bloated epics that dot the genre, but in half the runtime. Saidan are ably reminding you that there need be no tradeoff between artsy, epic atmosphere, and imminent, urgent hooks every few measures. One effective chord progression is worth 10 minutes of longwinded tremolo scraping, and to actually craft a concept that is both lyrically, topically defiant and draped in ghostly finery put it severed head and shoulders above most of its ilk.
If you wanted to build a modern death metal band from the ground up, with no expense spared, I think it would sound exactly like Venom Prison. Erebos sustains their place among death metal’s most fine-tuned. Carefully engineered as a factory-fresh Lambo, the chrome production makes it a gleaming melodeath machine, spewing out blue-hot leadwork with every pump on the gas. The lads have an expert sense of when to skid from string-skipping serration to pugilistic deathcore breakdowns, and Larissa’s seething roar cuts through it all, keeping rubber to road no matter the mood. I haven’t heard death metal this pissed in donkey’s years.
4. Faetooth – Remnants Of The Vessel
Dune Altar | Interview
Perhaps doom metal’s most highbrow imagery sources from the wellspring of folkloric mysticism, but it feels harder than ever to unearth a band with a sound that can match such enigmatic and eclectic traditions for versatility. With this debut album, though, there runs throughout a carefully curated cast of ceremonial influences, hitting on moody grunge and poetically looming sojourns. I found Remnants Of The Vessel to be working in sonic texture and motifs akin to the tapestries carved in treebark and moss-garbed riverbanks. The argot what shivers in swaying reeds and skittering leaves, the amphibian royalty of the vernal mire? They speak the name of Faetooth.
There ain’t nothing wrong with a little crusty black metal, especially not the economical and effective debut of Swazönd. The rest of the list is dominated by progressive and experimental fireworks, leaving Cursed Inheritance looking like a non-descript iron stove by comparison. But that stove kept me warm and comfy all year. For full plays it’s probably the title-holder, walking a snaking path right in the Goldilocks zone of hooky enough to engage, short enough to throw back on for a repeat, and mean enough to merit more than one. Black metal made to bang will never grow old.
2. Wormrot – Hiss
Earache Records | Riff Raff
My biggest learning experience this year was a headfirst dive into grindcore’s avante-garde, though I wouldn’t dare say I’ve done more than skim the surface. Past this year’s offerings from Cloud Rat and Knoll, proven expressionists of extremity, what really pulled me into the water was the rabid return of Singapore’s grind nobles Wormrot, picking up the torch from their Voices LP and edging into forlorn passages of migrained sludge and sobbing black metal. The fluidity of form on display only makes it more frantic. After a few tracks of pedigree grind, Hiss starts sounding off huge waves of drowning doom to ensconce the furious drums, and even the trilling grindcore whirls feel submerged in a hopeless torrent, flailing about in vain to break the surface again.
1. Nechochwen – Kanawha Black
Bindrune Recordings |
Inquisitive, redemptive, reverant, sacrificial, and sung straight from the soul. Kanawha Black has turned out heavier and sharper than Heart Of Akamon, but with barely a dip in the intricate voicing and dexterous melodicism that was its greatest strength. There’s a rich and bountiful range of moods on display, each fully seized as opportunities for playful elocution. Nechochwen‘s acuity of phrasing dances so gracefully across all the possibilities of the black metal space, without even a flinch between the distorted dashes of onyx that line the fusion-esque solos of the title track, the melodeath grandeur of “The Murky Deep”, and the cleansing acoustic poetry of “I Can Die But Once”. There are simply no bands as beautiful as Nechochwen.
Iron Goddess of Mercy
I’m sorry to the albums I didn’t hear. I’m sorry to the albums I didn’t review. I’m sorry my last review for Toilet ov Hell was in March about an album I haven’t listened to since. I’m sorry to Pusha T that I can’t include It’s Almost Dry for obvious reasons, but please know I know “Just So You Remember” is another jewel in your crown. I’m sorry to Natalia Sokolovskaya, whose Complete Chopin Nocturnes deserves its time in the sun, but I’m not Alex Ross. I’m sorry to Hath, Tómarúm, and Cult of Luna. 10 albums. 100 words each.
What a delightful debut from this UK duo. That the band released a single for Metal Hammer entitled “Where Strides the Colossus” tells you everything you need to know about Matriarch. Tuskar channel Mastodon’s days of yore, particularly the off-kilter, creeping, and thunderous nature of Lifesblood and Remission. In that way, they remind me so much of my beloved Black Sleep of Kali. Closer “Grave” even manages to mix in some of Torche’s heaviest moments to really seal the deal. But if you want a little variation, head straight for stand-out “Shame” and all its emotional pleading and tortured honesty.
It was a foregone conclusion that New Lords would end up on this list after the first time I heard “Words Fail.” My soul, indeed, was electrified. Mindforce have emerged as the world’s most fun crossover act, running as they do ’80s Metallica and Megadeth through the tried-and-true, black-and-blue NYHC filter. The more I listen—and the more live videos I watch—I’ve started to wonder: how much of this band’s brain-bashing bliss is owed to vocalist Jason Petagine’s beautiful Hudson Valley accent? Find me in Grant Park mosh-walkin’ with my dog through the damp winter leaves on most mornings.
After swirling around in the weird, glitchy ambient waters on W and then power-blasting the world with the sexy ’70s fury of Heavy Rocks 2022, Boris finally, and I mean finally, return to their Melvinsian namesake and out-drone SunnO))). fade is for everyone that appreciates innovation, risk, exploration, and all that other cool stuff but that, ultimately, just wants to hear Absolutego and Amplifier Worship on a loop forever. Light a candle, put it on, and fade into the riff as only this singular, uncompromising force can conjure it. I hope the next iteration of fade lasts for 30 years.
From Roland Barthes’ Roland Barthes: “Ideology: what is repeated and consistent… So ideological analysis (or counter-ideology) need merely be repeated and consistent… in order to become, itself an ideological object. How escape this? … This is perhaps the role of the aesthetic in our society: to provide the rules of an indirect and transitive discourse (it can transform language but does not display its domination, its good conscience).” Diaspora Problems does not counter Doxa (avoiding becoming mere a paradox): it escapes both by inhabiting a revolutionary space, one that is aesthetically heterodoxic and thus impossible to fully capture and sanitize.
20 years after the release of their landmark and genre-defying debut, Richmond legends City of Caterpillar return with an album that only total squares, ne’re-do-wells, and gadabouts would complain about. This isn’t an album for those who framed their copy of City of Caterpillar; rather, this is an album for those of us who know Malady’s 2004 Malady is almost undoubtedly the truest and rarest of gems shining forth from that hallowed and mythic scene. No less challenging than the original, Mystic Sisters has traded in the drunken cacophony of youth for the whirling, staggering, and miasmatic impasse of growing older.
From George Eliot’s Romola: “No one who has ever known what it is thus to lose faith in a fellow-man whom he has profoundly loved and reverenced, will lightly say that the shock can leave the faith in the Invisible Goodness unshaken. With the sinking of high human trust, the dignity of life sinks too; we cease to believe in our own better self, since that also is part of the common nature which is degraded in our thought; and all the finer impulses of the soul are dulled.” Yet out from “Betrayal” can “Bloom” forth a new, wondrous life.
All the wretched world is a crumbling stage, and all the purple people merely Sufferers; They have their senseless deaths and their traumatic entrances, and one purple man in his time plays many parts, his Acts being nine jpegs. When I listen to God’s Country, I imagine Raygun Busch performing nine rancid, rabid monologues on a stage with the rest of the band surging up its muck from the orchestra pit. Pacing back and forth, frothing and foaming at the mouth, tearing at his hair, pleading with a heedless audience, the monster signifies nothing in a world of unbound cruelty.
Back in March, when things were different, I was in Baltimore for a conference. As is my wont, I spent one day wandering the city. I had Turnstile, Trapped Under Ice, and End It on a loop, and you couldn’t tell me shit. I was bigger than the world that would soon remind me I most certainly wasn’t. Fortunately, Unpleasant Living hadn’t yet been released, or I would have gotten way too froggy. The modern urban flâneur needs a soundtrack like Unpleasant Living to lift them up above it all while keeping their feet planted firmly in it. Knuckle-draggers unite.
Before being ghettoized and nearly entirely erased, Eastern European Jews, particularly in Poland, were often educated in Bunds—schools with Jewish socialist politics that, unlike other learning institutions, viewed Hebrew as the outmoded language of early-century Zionism and Yiddish as the people’s language of liberation. My grandparents were raised in Bunds. Everything Returns, Black Ox Orkestar’s third album and first in 16 years, participates in this radical tradition, combining English and Yiddish vocals with traditional folk instrumentation and post-rock intimations to submerge us into the present’s epigenetic melancholy in the hopes that we might re-emerge into a beautifully different future.
Thank you to Brutus for cracking me open when I did not think I could be more cracked or more open. Thank you for being the soundtrack to so many tears shed. Thank you for every moment I abandon all sense of self-consciousness and fling my arms out to embrace the world to translate Stefanie Mannaerts’s voice into pure, divine motion. Thank you for the irruptive “Oh my God!” in the final refrain of “What We Have Done.” Thank you for the breakdown in “Chainlife.” Thank you for the reminder that “after all, we are still going strong.” Thank you.
Over the course of the year, this list grew organically in my notes app, so no malice aforethought went into the order. A special “Discovered Too Late” award goes to Afflicition Vector, whose caustic and depressive black metal would surely have made the list in 2020.
Skumstrike – Deadly Intrusions
Caligari/Selfmadegod | Podcast
Do you sometimes get drunk on or around graveyards? Is your habitat perpetually pervaded by a crypt-like odor? Do you like to listen to Celtic Frost on double speed? If any of the above ring true, I think this album’s a must for you.
Loath – ‘mageddon
Independent | Mini Review
An immensely addictive and fun hodgepodge of heavy genres that came out of nowhere and surprised me with how outrageously well it works. Give it the <20 minutes it asks, there’s bound to be something in it for you.
High Command – Eclipse of the Dual Moons
I don’t know when trad metal vibes and fantasy themes started bleeding into crossover thrash and I don’t understand it and I don’t like most of it and y’all are weird, but this album has an irresistible force to it.
Wormrot – Hiss
Earache | Podcast Again
Grind fans had a lot to sink their teeth into this year with heady stuff like Cloud Rat, Ernia, and Trauma Bond, but this one was probably the main event for how well it balances the progressive with the primal. Next level shit.
Vauruvã – Por Nós de Ventania
Independent | Review
The bottom line of Vauruvã’s genre blend might be more discernibly black metal than I made it seem, but it’s a wonderfully engrossing free-form type of black metal that remained unparalleled this year.
Cigar – The Visitor
Fat Wreck Chords
Is the danger of a sophomore slump higher or lower when your debut was 20+ years ago? In any case, Cigar avoid it masterfully by still playing fast as heck and writing fantastic singalongs. Drummer Big Jon is still the highlight, doing a big part of what earns them the “technical” tag.
Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor
Either I’ve been missing something until now or this project has indeed never sounded as big, as catchy, and as menacing as it does here. Suddenly everything clicked for me, and I’ve been coming back to this a lot.
Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons
Literally superlative atmospheric black metal. As in, I’m pretty sure this is the final form of the genre. Peak self-indulgence, but also peak emotional engagement. Crisp af sound doesn’t hurt, either.
Disillusion – Ayam
Prophecy Records | Review
I still wasn’t sure about The Liberation by the end of 2019, but there can be no two minds about this one. Unequivocally and unquestionably great. If you still haven’t checked out “The Brook,” do it now.
Cabinet – Claustrophobic Dysentery & Pt. III: Get In… (Enter the Cabinet)
Bloody Mountain Records | Mini Review
In a moldy sub-basement below the skyscraper of death metal I liked this year, a fetid swamp has formed from decomposing biomass, emanating a foul stench that beckoned me with its ridiculous repugnance. Not the be-all, but kinda the end-all of the genre.