TOP ALBUMS OV 2022 W/ THEOPHRASTUS BOMBASTUS, JOAQUIN STICK, AND MEGACHILES!
LISTMANIA 2K22 Day 3 struts in, and your paltry paycheck knows the hour is close at hand. Dollars shrivel in its presence. BoFa accounts cower in abject terror. The good folks Theophrastus Bombastus, Joaquin Stick, and Megachiles are serving up hot list action, so prepare to pay up for newfound favorites!
It’s that time of year again, folks, the time when we aggregate all of our extremely objective, highly empirical lists of everything that struck our fancy this year. If an album from this year is not on this list or any others on this site, you should delete it from this site, send its makers vile things in the mail and probably lash yourself several dozen times for the extreme errors in your judgment.
Now, obviously the best album of the year was Chat Pile – God’s Country. Who’s that, you ask? Why, none other than Chat Pile, whose sonic decision-making is sure to reverberate across the generations. In those days, the smiths of Oklahoma surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made God’s Country. […] Now the metalheads made many songs; but secretly Raygun Busch made “Slaughterhouse” to rule all the others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last.
Because of conflicts of interest and a general lack of confidence in my ability to tell you what else to listen to (especially given that I just listened to the very compelling Ashenspire record today despite having had the promo months ago), I’m doing genre favorites instead. Below, you’ll find my subjective take on each offshoot ov metal’s sickest output ov 2022, plus a lot ov other stuff, too.
Favorite black metal
Terzij de Horde – In One of These, I Am Your Enemy
ConSouling Sounds | Mini
What’s my favorite black metal ov 2022, you ask? Why, that’d be courtesy of Utrecht’s Terzij de Horde, the vitalistic Utrecht black metallers whose last contribution came 7 years ago via the introspective Self. In One of These, I Am Your Enemy goes pretty much only fast and encapsulates metaphysical rage better than many others did in a year that warranted plenty of it. A blisteringly concise album, I told everyone I could about In One of These… this year, and now I’m telling you again: it’s really good, and this was a year with a lot of really good black metal.
Favorite death metal
Inanna – Void of Unending Depths
Memento Mori | Review
This record is absolutely huge and manages to bear-hug all of death metal’s sounds without overstaying its welcome. “Cabo de Hornos” in particular is an odyssey of a track, taking the listener across glistening peaks and frigid fjørds with a steady, proggy sense of grandeur. Just a really compelling and sonically dense record that doesn’t feel self-indulgent.
A year after screeching into dozens of AOTY lists just in the nick of time, Dream Unending does it again. This dream-doom duo has managed a solid front-to-backer bookended by two truly titanic compositions. This band has set the bar high for themselves given the sheer emotional force of this record and Tide Turns Eternal. Tip of the hat for a quick turnaround that didn’t sacrifice anything in quality (save maybe the more trad-y cover art—I was into that last record’s weird ’80s design sensibility).
Brutus – Unison Life
Sargent House | Toilet Radio
I don’t care if this isn’t exactly hardcore, or skramz, or really anything beyond incredibly fucking powerful. That’s what this album is—emotional, passionate, raw and also powerful in the accessibility of its songwriting and lyrics. These are good tracks in any genre—put “Victoria” in a pop-country singer’s hands, and you’d have a guaranteed goddamn hit. I immediately connected with Unison Life and continue to spin it regularly. This was by far my most played record of 2022, and the fact that Stefanie Mannaerts sings like that while playing fucking blast beats continues to absolutely blow my mind.
Wormrot – Hiss
Earache | Riff Raff
In an absolutely bonkers year for grindcore, this was an absolutely bonkers record. Pulling in everything from seconds-long Napalm Deathian songs to bombastic, shrieking post-grindcore opuses, the Singapore legends—whose vocalist truly went out on top when quitting after recording Hiss—have left a template behind for any other grind artists with grand ambitions. Given the length of records this year from artists like Cloud Rat and Bandit, whose Juniata comes out after all these lists will be published, this is my tip for the genre to watch in 2023 and ’24. The sheer breadth of ideas being worked on is really remarkable at the moment, and it’s way less likely you’ll run into Nazis while exploring its outer reaches.
A gargantuan record with all of the expansive soundscapes and keening riffs you’d expect on any good post-metal record, Poland’s Hegemone go a step post-er than on their last record, We Disappear, to add further depth and nuance to their sound. If you like your metal to go mostly slow but also make you scared and not sad like with doom, this is good. Unlike some other post-metal releases, Ex Est isn’t overly plodding or up its own ass, and there’s always a musical Thwomp waiting overhead in case you get too complacent.
For whatever reason, I’m a total sucker for chopped-up, pitch-shifted vocals, and while the Range checks that box for me, it’s the lush soundscapes with with he surrounds said vocals that pulls it all together for me. I was absolutely gobsmacked by Nonfiction back when, and while Mercury doesn’t quite reach the pinnacles of “Metal Swing,” tracks like “Relegate” and “Balm” conjure bursts of traditional rave hits and epic trance synths without losing the overall warmth and nostalgia of the Range’s preferred musical atmosphere. This is also a more danceable album that Nonfiction and makes me long for my young, stupid days destroying my hearing behind two turntables and a mixer.
While I’ve always enjoyed their brand of tech death, Fallujah has been more of a top-30-albums band for me. They found a new, slower groove to throw in among their wailing riffs and blasts that gives simpletons like me to grasp onto. There’s still plenty of complexity and heaviness, but somehow choruses to sing along with and great ephemeral guest vocals that work perfectly with their tone. The discordant solo on “Mindless Omnipotent Master” is one of the most unique things I’ve heard in a bit. For such a serious vibe, there are a surprising number of fun moments to catch you off guard.
The dreamy boys are back. Their unique brand of happy-sad-gaze is genius in itself, but their ability to keep evolving is what’s keeping me tuned in. With a sound that borders on a gimmick, they just keep writing catchy hits that sound different enough that they don’t ever really blend together. There’s just something about their shreddy riffs, paired with softly pummeling beats and ethereal vocals that just really does it for me.
8. Moon Tooth – Phototroph
Pure Noise Records | Review
Oh boy was I horrified when Nick Lee had a very serious health scare earlier this year. I say this every time I mention the band, but I don’t understand how he’s not revered as one of the most innovative guitarists out there right now. On top of that, John Carbone once again delivers a completely unhinged vocal performance that makes you feel what he’s feeling. This is what progressive rock should be, and no one is doing it but them.
It’s almost annoying that I have to continually save a spot for these guys any time they put something out, but there’s still no one doing post-metal as well as this. It’s full of massive, foreboding riffs that strike an oppressive fear, but the occasional light synth melodies are like rays of sunshine poking through an overcast sky. While they stick to the genre standard of the slow build through repetition, anything they repeat starts complex and interesting and just gets better, rather than starting too stripped down to even bother paying attention to. Just when I think they can’t pack any more into their sound, they drop their densest material yet. Another masterpiece.
6. Ithaca – They Fear Us
Hassle Records | Mini
Ithaca somehow continues to step up their game after 2019’s The Language of Injury with even more pissed-off but subtle social commentary. I hear a lot of post-hardcore where the guitarist is innovative for either the hardcore or post- bits, but recycles tropes from the other one. You won’t find that issue here. There’s always some little angle thrown into the thrashy riffs or a weird melodic twist in the clean verses. When you add to that an absolutely dominant vocal performance, they instantly rose to be one of my favorites in the genre.
5. Elder – Innate Passage
Stickman Records | Review
Elder is one of those bands that found their formula surprisingly early but continues to push the boundaries of what that formula can do. Their unmatched psychedelic riffs continue to be the driving force of each track, and you can expect the same insane solos and cathartic meandering grooves that you’ve been hearing since at least Lore. The vocals feel a little bit more baked into the plan this time, and the improved performance is unmistakable. Their tried-and-true method of five 10-minute tracks continues here with no loss of expertise on pacing and evolving to keep it exciting. Unsurprisingly, it’s another huge success for the kings of the genre.
Being able to see a bunch of these tracks live moved this album up a few spots on my list (it was already guaranteed a spot, obviously). With a careful listen, the complexity of these tracks is obvious, but seeing the technicality of the drums and guitar opened up a whole new realm for me. I thought synths and vocals were doing the heaviest lifting and everything else was support, but that’s horrifically wrong. I’m a sucker for extreme polarity in aggression when it comes to the dynamics of a track or album, so Rolo has always hit the spot in their ability to go from the softest of soft to really intricate and furious hardcore.
Honestly, the band could have just released the second track, “Silvered Shadows” as a standalone track and I would have given it a spot on this list. The guitar motif that runs through it perfectly encapsulates the grief this album is centered around, and it’s somehow incredibly beautiful while doing so. If you noticed a running theme in my favorite music so far, you won’t be surprised that this one also has some great sorrowful clean vocals sections backed right up into some excellent heavy progressive black and death bits. The lick on “Compost Grave-Song” just feels like they’re cheating. Stealing riffs and guitar tones from the gods. I don’t get it.
2. Allegaeon – Damnum
Metal Blade | Review
I’m probably in the minority but I think Allegaeon is one of those bands that have improved with every album. With Damnum, they continue to lean a little lighter and proggier, which for me balances and enhances their tech death roots. It was a massive disappointment to hear Riley McShane is parting with the band after this perfect vocal performance, so the next album has a huge hurdle for continuing that streak. While I could take a whole album of clean vocals and acoustic guitars, most of the album is still super aggressive, full of captivating technical riffs, and most importantly, BIG OL HOOKS including the thematically-perfect chorus to close out the album on “Only Loss”.
1. Parius – The Signal Heard Throughout Space
Willowtip | Review/Premiere
I so frequently mark down albums as “the band has promise but this one was just a little above average” only to be disappointed and proven wrong by the follow-up release. Parius is not one of those bands. This stupid space opera blew me away despite its obvious inspiration from the corniest bits of BTBAM and Dream Theater. Somehow the fantastic songwriting and musicianship soar over cheesiness. As Spear pointed out in his review/premiere, they synthesized and surpassed everything in the genre (except maybe Parallax II). So many great vocal hooks, prog/tech noodly riffs, and a range from speedy death to sweet ballad. It’s a masterpiece and perhaps the most exciting thing I’ve heard in years.
Sorry for falling off a bit there, buds. I got a new job professionally Touching Grass and it’s significantly cut down on my metal writing time. On the other hand it’s significantly upped my vitamin D intake and my farmer’s tan is absolutely breathtaking.
Here are some jams I liked. You should throw these artists some of your monies. Also sorry this list is 30% dungeon synth.
Exactly what I wanted to hear when I naively hit play on Smote Reverser by the Oh Sees way back in 2018 because it had a big spooky guy on the album art. This is liquid hot magma Death Metal courtesy of Lavadome Productions, and frankly the ‘dome don’t miss cuz between this and Heaving Earth they’ve dropped some of the best death metal of the year. Big n’ beefy, full of sick solos, and technical, but in a Erik Rutan or Trey Azagthoth way not a purple alien squid album art squeedly-deedly sorta way. And is that a tasteful amount of vocoder I hear? Delightful.
I’ve never really clicked with previous Mountain Goats albums outside of All Hail West Texas. Chalk it up to getting older. Or maybe what hooked me this time around was the addition of Alicia Bognanno’s fretboard sorcery cuz, well, she can write a mean hook! Srsly this album is so riddled with them I’ve had one or more of these songs stuck in my head per week since August. This time around John Darnielle and co. spin tales of mercenaries, hostage situations, revenge, mobsters, and maybe even Sylvester Stallone into twelve songs worthy of the best ’80s training montages (and angry warehouse dance scenes). Don’t think the smooth saxophone stylings on “Extraction Point” or the funky shuffle of “Guys on Every Corner” are the bee’s knees? Sorry you don’t have what it takes to beat Ivan Drago, pal.
“breeeeeeeeeebreeeeeeeeebreebrebre Brebreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” Or “Gorgutsian skronkitudes concerning Nature’s inexorable victory over technology and the transience of existence.”
“Embalmed with Magma” has gotta be one of my fav song titles of the year AND it whips insane amounts of synthetic ass. Luv 2 feel that bass put a rumble in my ear drums (and loins) while Voivodian passages penetrate and assimilate my auditory cortex. This encapsulates the first decade of the band’s sound into its purest, skronkiest distillation. Don’t drink the distillate tho. It’s full of nanobots that feed on organic matter. A heckuva final transmission to close out Will Smith’s time with the band, and a fitting end to the Age of the Machines. So go forth dear reader, and slap play on “Artificial Brain” by Artificial Brain from the album Artificial Brain.
My BAAZLBOIS are BAAZLback with another slab of progressive black metal-by-way-of Celtic Tiger, and by Michael Flatley’s clogs did they deliver. The arcane synth stylings and buckwild guitar exotica bound within An Old Forgotten Text reward repeat listens. It’s a tome replete with riffs and synth wizardry, y’all. Just absolutely lousy with cool sounding shit. If I have one minor complaint it’s that the run time could maybe use some pruning, but it’s not like I’m out here conjuring heroic black metal odysseys like these kids are. Anyways, I really hope they make a run of hi-vis shirts for this record, so we can stop losing black metal fans in the woods.
Death Doom 2 Watch Sunsets 2, pt. II:
“2 Dream 2 Unending”
This was among my most anticipated albums of 2022 and I’m happy to say Dream Unending has expanded and delivered on the promises of their debut. Song of Salvation pushes the dreamscape further and deeper with added instrumental depth (trumpet! From a member of Vastum!) and more ambitious—yet somehow punchier—songwriting. The riffs are heavier, the guitar solos more hypnotic and evocative, and there’s even another monologue-that-goes-hard by a guy from Star Trek. Derick Vella’s dad laying down some ambient backing synth is the Dude’s Rock moment of the year and brings a tear to my eye. Go jam this.
Chaucerian Myth made an indelible mark on the dungeon synth genre with a 3 hour ode to the Canterbury Tales (BosstheRoss review here) way back in 2016. Totally unaware of this, I hit play on St. George & the Dragon because I thought it looked neat, only for its opening melody to sink its talons straight into my heart and drag me to its golden hoard of triumphant and harrowing soundscapes. I think what I enjoy most about St. George is how effectively Chaucerian Myth spins such an evocative, heroic tale with only a keyboard, some sample kits, and their imagination. U like motifs in your music, dawg? Buddy, St. George has got chivalric leitmotifs. So close your eyes, traveler, and witness the courageous St. George as he plunges headlong into baleful darkness to subdue and slay the great wyrm!
Real crenellated shit 2 estampie with ur sweetie too, y’all. Don your bycocket and ready the ole buisine buds, cuz we’re about to get medieval. This was my driving/walking/working/thinking/bath tubbing /weightlifting/home repair/existential crisis jam this year. If the sonorous, swirl of melodica-esque doots at 2:19 of “Paraphet Rambler” or the victorious trumpet fanfares at 2:23 of “The Old Moat Dragon” don’t get your loins girded and your blade drawn then leave the hall! Another indelible dungeon synth classic from one of the genre’s greats.
Shout out to the sisters of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fidélité of Jouques cuz they the real MVPs on the latest medieval ambient/holy synth/dungeoun canticle/nunwave banger from Nova Scotia’s DIM. Through sampling Gregorian chants from these benedictine gal pals, DIM has created a memorable, resplendent offering of introspective synth music for you to foist on your friends, children, work colleagues, fav toilet fetish blog, and DnD party. My kid calls it “calmin’ music”. Highly recommended, and endorsed by at least one 3 year old.
Glyph—Remind Us of the Sun
Independent | lil’ review
A phenomenal spring release that I don’t think got its due, probably because black metal fans are all cowards afraid of audible bass and Dense Riffs. Or as I put it earlier this year:
“When black metal is called a “ritual” or “ceremony” it should sound like Remind Us of the Sun. These are weirding incantations echoing through a peat bog from some lonesome tower. An unnatural thrumming as a one-eyed druid whispers into a doe’s skull and cloaks the moors in an unnatural mist… The slavering old evil that emerged from below the cairn drags you into the loamy, humid darkness as you marvel at the thick and luscious bass tone.”
Curta’n Wall—Crocodile Moat!!!!!!! & Old Nick—Ghost O’ Clock
Grime Stone Records
As the saying goes “The heart wants what the heart wants”, and clearly what my heart wants is black metal that sounds like Garm spent the Nattens Madrigal writing sessions playing Donkey Kong Country 2 (real Gangplank Galleon heads know). The Abysmal Specter strikes again!