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2022 Listens

Created by: LordFezzington | 03.01.2022

1. Gaerea - Mirage
[Black, Portugal] I put off listening to this until I actually had the CD in hand, just because Limbo was SO good in 2020 and I wanted to treat this with the attention it clearly deserves. So only listened to it for the first time in December 2023! Boy, have I been missing out for the last year. Incredible once again. Will add more thoughts, but for now, it's easily one of the tops of 2022. [8.5+]
2. Immolation - Acts Of God
[Death, USA] Finally caught Immolation live at Netherlands Deathfest in March 2022, where they played 'Noose Of Thorns'. Which happens to be one of the standout tracks off this. All in all an incredibly vital sounding album from the New York vets. Their trademark swirling, slightly impenetrable heaviness is made unusually accessible by the relatively short tracks, all of which bang. [8.5]
3. Panzerfaust - The Suns Of Perdition - Chapter III: The Astral Drain
[Black, Canada] The first part of this is one of my favourites of 2019 and this completes a masterful trilogy brilliantly. Mesmeric and brooding - some of the best atmosphere committed to record, in 2022 at least. [8.5]
4. Blackbraid - Blackbraid I
[Black, USA] Always fantastic when a debut comes along that is as good as this. One-man native American-themed (which, given the guy's heritage, makes a lot of sense) and fairly traditional black metal, with a really good sense of melody. Would it have been nice to have more cultural influence than just the lyrics? Absolutely. But if you need something to fill an Agalloch-shaped hole. This is is it. And just get a load of the riff in 'Prying Open The Jaws Of Eternity'... [8.0-8.5]
5. Dark Millennium - Acid River
[Death/Doom, Germany] This could easily be at home during peak 90's death and doom metal, which shouldn't really be a surprise since Dark Millennium have been around since 1989. Once this gets going, it's fantastic stuff - especially the mournful melodic moments on 'Lunacy' and 'Death Comes In Waves'. Takes a few unexpected turns along the way. [8.0+]
6. Marillion - An Hour Before It's Dark
[Progressive Rock, UK] OK, so Mariliion are a massively significant band for me, but who haven't consistently hit the heights of stuff like Marbles or Afraid Of Sunlight for a long time. This just might be up there though. I especially like 'Be Hard On Yourself' and 'Care'. [At least 8.0+]
7. Disillusion - Ayam
[Progressive, Germany] See, this has what I feel a lot of modern prog is missing - feeling. A much more emotionally driven record than a lot of others in the same style, with some killer riffs to boot. Very tasty. [8.0+]
8. Ghost - Impera
[Heavy, Sweden] Is it metal? Well, maybe a bit less so than some of their earlier stuff, but still yes. And quite frankly, that's not relevant anyway - Tobias Forge has always had a knack of disguising a pop banger beneath the occult veneer. Impera is just Ghost going full mask off (well not literally of course) and giving in to the full pop hooks. But there are some incredible songs here - 'Kaisarion', 'Call Me Little Sunshine', even 'Hunter's Moon' - and the album is only really let down by a couple of unnecessary interludes (not 'Imperium' by the way) and I still don't really like 'Twenties', sorry. 'Spillways' and 'Respite On The Spitalfields' rival songs like 'Monstrance Clock' and 'Square Hammer' for Ghost's best ever tracks. [8.0]
9. Amorphis - Halo
[Melo/Folk, Finland] Amorphis are nothing if not consistent. They have steadily put put a stream of excellent albums over the last decade and a half. Now, I've seen a lot of comments saying this doesn't have any standout tracks. Certainly, there's no melodies quite like 'Among Stars', 'Under The Red Cloud' or 'Battle For Light' here, but that might be the beauty of this album: ALL the songs are good. A rising tide lifts all boats and so on. [8.0]
10. Dreadnought - The Endless
[Progressive, USA] Discovered these when their debut was a staff pick back in 2013, and really dug the slightly trippy feel. Lost a bit of touch over time, but The Endless is well worthy of dragging my attention back. Dreadnought still manage to balance heaviness with ethereal beauty - and not just in the verse/chorus contrasts a lot of bands go in for. Hard to pick a standout track, but albums like this are always better consumed in a single sitting anyway. [8.0]
11. White Ward - False Light
[Black/Post, Ukraine] Very strong black/post release here. Another band making use of saxophone - this time to excellent effect. Like the way this wanders between feels within and between tracks. Great riff in 'Silence Circles' by the way. [8.0]
12. Persefone - Metanoia
[Melo/Progressive, Andorra] I've wandered away from progressive stuff on the whole in recent years, which may explain why I wasn't blown away by this as a whole album. Some of it is really engaging - 'Consciousness Pt. 3' for example - but other parts decidedly less so. Still a very good album of this style though. [7.5-8.0]
13. Autopsy - Morbidity Triumphant
[Death, USA] Autopsy have never been my favourite of the original wave of death metal, but they're definitely a solid go-to if you need some dirty grooves with a splash of doom. This recalls their first two records, but with more modern production, so plenty to enjoy here. [7.5-8.0]
14. Rolo Tomassi - Where Myth Becomes Memory
[Post, UK] Never engaged with these guys before, but realise that was an error. Having since listened to the previous album, this maybe isn't quite as strong and the light and dark are maybe more separate than they could be. But the dreamlike soft parts and the cathartic heavy parts are still pretty compelling. [7.5-8.0]
15. Porcupine Tree - Closure / Continuation
[Prog Rock, UK] Look, I didn't think we'd get any Porcupine Tree ever again, so anything is a win. Nothing will likely ever touch Deadwing or In Absentia, or the peak moments on Fear Of A Living Planet, but I think this as good an album as could reasonably be expected. The bass intro on 'Harridan' is great, and the back half of the album is really strong, 'Herd Culling' and 'Chimera's Wreck' in particular. Could definitely have cut 'Of The New Day' though... [7.5+]
16. Autonoesis - Moon Of Foul Magics
[Black/Death/Thrash, Canada] Autonoesis' debut was a surprise find in 2020, albeit another in a succession genre-blending albums of the last five or so years. This drags the band further down the blackened side of things, with mostly very strong results. Riffs galore, ripping solos, great vocals. Songwriting is a bit hit and miss and bloated in places and the production is halfway between charmingly raw and annoyingly muddy, so not quite a masterpiece. [7.5+]
17. Lamb Of God - Omens
[Groove, USA] Lamb Of God are one of my favourite 'modern' bands (if you count the last 20 years as modern, lol) but it's fair to say they've had some stumbles along the way - the production on As The Palaces Burn, Resolution not quite panning out (although I still quite like it). Mercifully, I've still avoided hearing the much-maligned self-titled record - their first without Chris Adler behind the kit. Adler was a massive part of their sound but, while they'll never quite sound the same without him, this is a very solid record. 'Nevermore', 'Vanishing', the title track, 'Gomorrah' all have great hooks and I really like the slightly restrained 'September Song'. A handful of throwaways - 'To The Grave', 'Denial Mechanism', even 'Ditch', but the good songs outweigh the less memorable ones. [7.5+]
18. Mountaineer - Giving Up The Ghost
[Post, USA] I absolutely adored 2020's Bloodletting, a warm and fuzzy doomgaze opus. This is actually a bit too short to make as big an impression, but some of it's truncated runtime is really good. 'When The Soul Sleeps' in particular. [7.5+]
19. Wiegedood - There's Always Blood At The End Of The Road
[Black, Belgium] Caustic, fairly relentless black with excellent atmosphere and great little touches of difference throughout, expanding the sound. Good stuff. [7.5+]
20. Ereb Altor - Vargtimman
[Folk/Black, Sweden] Very much a game of two halves here, but not in terms of quality. The first half recalls Moonsorrow in its epic folkiness, while the second leans much more into the darker, blacker side of things. And everything here is pretty good, actually. [7.5+]
21. Trenches - Reckoner
[Hardcore/Sludge, USA] This is pretty damn good actually. Blends together hardcore aggression with sludge and enough little post-whatever expansiveness to be quite engaging. Nice and to the point at 37 minutes too. [7.5+]
22. Krallice - Crystalline Exhaustion
[Avant Black, USA] Following hot on the heels of 2021's Demonic Wrath (and closely followed by June 2022's Psychagogue...), it would have been fair to expect this to be uninspired. But actually, the atmosphere on here is almost dreamlike in places and is certainly an immersive listen. Unpredictable basslines and very tasteful synths make it a very solid record. The title track is absolutely wonderful. [7.5+]
23. Soilwork - Övergivenheten
[Melo, Sweden] Another album that would be so much stronger if it was 10-15 mins shorter. This isn't a style that lends itself to long albums really. That said, I actually like the majority of the songs on this despite not usually being to into the clean/harsh vocal dichotomy. The title track's dalliance with western stylings plus a great, if slightly odd melody make it stand out. 'This Godless Universe', 'Harvest Spine' and 'Nous Sommes La Guerre' too. [7.5]
24. Celeste - Assassine(s)
[Black/Sludge, France] Grimy blackened sludge, suitably aggressive. What else do you want? [7.5]
25. Zeal & Ardor - Zeal & Ardor
[Avant Black, USA] I've always thought Zeal & Ardor was good. The debut was innovative when it burst on the scene and there's no doubt this continues to tell an important story. Good, but not as engaging as the debut or Strange Fruit for me. [7.5]
26. Municipal Waste - Electrified Brain
[Thrash/Crossover, USA] They're still making fun, dumb thrash. What more can you ask at this point? [7.5]
27. Confess - Revenge At All Costs
[Thrash/Nu, Iran/Norway] Understandably angry music from the Iranians-in-exile. I've gone off nu metal more and more over the years, but this has enough bite in its riffs and songwriting to stand up to a fair bit of scrutiny. Vocals are suitably irate sounding and actually one of the album's strong points, which cannot be said for all acts in this space. [7.5]
28. Earthless - Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons
[Stoner/Psychedelic Rock, USA] Good quality stoner record here with a couple of other flourishes - really like the semi-ambient beginning to the first part of the title track for examples. Big riffs, big solos, big runtime, not so big in terms of overall memorability. Still good though. [7.5]
29. Toundra - Hex
[Post, Spain] Really quite pleasant instrumental post metal/heavy post rock. A lot to like here, but just maybe missing a little something to propel it a bit further. [7.5]
30. Darkthrone - Astral Fortress
[Black, Norway] Darkthrone continue to pump out late career albums. This one is solid again - a bit more upbeat that Eternal Hails...... and probably about the same standard overall. Some fun synth touches here and there too. [7.0-7.5]
31. Beholder (CAN) - Arcane Subreptice
[Black/Thrash, Canada] Québécois thrashened-black - at least it feels closer to black metal at its core, anyway. Very fun little album with a nice blend of speed and atmosphere. [7.0-7.5]
32. Wilderun - Epigone
[Progressive, USA] This has got a lot of people drooling it seems. I actually don't remember Veil of Imagination (which either means I didn't listen to it or I didn't like it much), but I can hear moments on here of genuine quality. 'Passenger', 'Identifier' and parts of the 'Distraction' suite stand out. But overall, the soft elements are fairly colourless and both 'Distraction' and the 15-minute 'Woolgatherer' felt like collections of ideas rather than cohesive songs and don't really justify their length. [7.0-7.5]
33. Riverwood - Shadows And Flames
[Progressive/Folk, Egypt] Wasn't sure about this going in - 75 minutes is a long time. Some very solid stuff on here, with a couple of really excellent choruses - 'Queen Of The Dark', for example. And, in fact, the long songs work pretty well for the most part - the interludes could absolutely be ditched. But again, 75 minutes? Edit this down to 50-60 minutes and I think you'd end up with a fantastic record. As it is, it's still good, but could be even better. [7.0+]
34. Candlemass - Sweet Evil Sun
[Doom, Sweden] Another 'classic' band I've not found the time to seriously dedicate to their back catalogue, which is probably an error. This is a solid trad doom album with some nice riffing here and there. Wasn't blown away overall, but 'Black Butterfly' stood out for me. [7.0]
35. The Halo Effect - Days Of The Lost
[Melo, Sweden] The best In Flames/Dark Tranquillity album of the last 10 or so years? Well, maybe if you're only talking In Flames. Don't get me wrong, this is a solid melodeath album that definitely sounds more like what IF could have produced. But it leans too heavily into Clayman era stuff for me, plus there are definitely a couple of missteps on here that are stray into metalcore/nu territory which don't really work in this context. [7.0]
36. Bongtower - Oscillator II
[Stoner, Russia] This would be a lot higher if not for the weird spoken word interludes. Awesome stoner riffs abound over an hour and a half, which makes for an excellent album to have on in the background, but there are some stand out moments too, like 'Mars' for example. [7.0]
37. Animårum - The Gaian Mind
[Tech Death, USA] Quite liked this - short, to the point tech death with a little bit of tribal flavouring. Some catchy riffs here and there, but could definitely use an expansion of the tribal feel and a bit more memorability. [7.0]
38. Mechina - Venator
[Sci-Fi Industrial/Orchestral, USA] A significant improvement on last year's Siege. Feels much closer to their peak, if not quite there. Harsh vocals making a return is nice, but the songs are more engaging this time round. [7.0]
39. Behemoth - Opvs Contra Natvram
[Death, Poland] Another band I like, but never loved. The Satanist and Evangelion are great albums for wildly different reasons. This is... OK? The first three tracks do nothing for me - the chorus in 'The Deathless Sun' is quite silly tbh, but 'Ov My Herculean Exile' ups the atmosphere a bit. Actually, when they take their foot off the pedal and insert a few more dynamics, I think the material is stronger. 'Thy Becoming Eternal' and 'Vervs Christvs' closing the album bear that out. [6.5-7.0]
40. Megadeth - The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead!
[Thrash/Heavy, USA] This is, somewhat surprisingly, a perfectly fine album from MegaDave. Not really anything you haven't heard before (OK, except an Ice-T guest spot). Feels like a blend of the thrashier moments off Endgame with a slight hint in places of Cryptic Writings/The System Has Failed. 'Dogs Of Chernobyl' is particularly good, and 'Célebutante's main riff is straight up glorious NWOBHM. But there are - inevitably - some questionable songwriting choices, e.g. breaking the promising momentum in the opener, whatever the hell happens at the start of 'Junkie' and so on. Evens out to a pretty average to enjoyable listen. [6.5-7.0]
41. Mathan - Darkroot Tzantza
[Death, Ecuador] I think I may need to revisit this one as other people's views seem to suggest this is better than I thought it was. The tribal touches are nice for sure and the drumming is excellent, just didn't hold my attention as much as I'd hoped. [6.5-7.0]
42. Nocturnal Graves - An Outlaw's Stand
[Death/Black/Thrash, Australia] OK, this is nothing special, but maybe it's just the way these styles go together when done well that made this a worthwhile listen. Might come back to this. [6.5-7.0]
43. Shadow Of Intent - Elegy
[Deathcore, USA] A bit like Fit For An Autopsy below, this was going to need to do a lot to seriously impress me, but this is a much more solid record overall in my view. Perhaps because it leans a bit more into melodeath than straight up deathcore in places, but still not something I'd go running back to in a hurry. [6.5-7.0]
44. King Bastard - It Came From The Void
[Stoner/Doom, USA] There's a bit more variety on here than you might expect, but ultimately not enough to make me want to come back too often. The fat guitar and bass tone that give way to a more spaced out moment on opener 'From Hell To Horizon' is very promising, but I think the album's largely instrumental nature leaves it a but much to do to retain serious interest. [6.5-7.0]
45. Ancesthor - White Terror
[Thrash, Mexico] A curious record this. Five of its seven tracks are pretty banging melodic thrash rippers, which is all to the good. But then comes the semi-operatic 'La Llorona' derailing everything half way through and the 8-minute closer 'The Waltz Of The Sea' tries to be progressive, but is a mess, quite frankly. [6.5]
46. Kurokuma - Born Of Obsidian
[Sludge, UK] Pretty reasonable South American (for some reason) flavoured sludge here. It's decent, but not especially riveting. [6.5]
47. Needless - The Cosmic Cauldron
[Death/Thrash, Hungary] Seems a risky move naming your band Needless, especially given just how much music there is around! Pseudo-tech death adjacent stuff here, reminded me a bit of Vektor at times, but that could just be the sci-fi theme. Passable [6.5]
48. Sothoris - Wpiekłowstąpienie
[Death/Black, Poland] Obvious comparisons with Behemoth here. Also one song that sounds like it was lifted straight from the cutting room floor during Satyricon's Now, Diabolical sessions. Again, it's fine, but unlikely to get me coming back. [6.5]
49. Eucharist - I Am The Void
[Death/Black, Sweden] A Velvet Creation & Mirrorworlds are bona fide 90s cult classics of melodic death metal, but those may as well have been released by a different band. And to be fair, that's pretty much the case as only Markus Johnsson is still part of Eucharist. Anyway, there are some decent flashes here, but if you're going to do a 'comeback' album after 15 years in a completely different style AND you make it 77 minutes long, you need more than flashes. Probably disappointment of 2022 for me, despite being an OK record. [6.0-6.5]
50. Tony Martin - Thorns
[Heavy/Rock, UK] I mean, this sounds exactly how I'd expect a Tony Martin record to sound in 2022, which is to say it could have been released any time between about 1985 and the present day. The man himself is still on top form and the songs are fine, just nothing really outstanding. The countried-up and pseudo spoken word 'This Is Your Damnation' is just odd. [6.0-6.5]
51. Fit For An Autopsy - Oh What The Future Holds
[Deathcore, USA] Deathcore has a lot to do to convince me it's worth my time. Born Of Osiris managed it in 2021; can Fit For An Autopsy manage it in 2022? Maybe. There are a few elements that make FFAA a bit different to some other bands in the space, and there are a couple of nice songs here - 'Two Towers' for example. But I still think they fall back on genre stereotypes a bit too much. [6.0-6.5]
52. Power Paladin - With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel
[Power/Heavy, Iceland] Only listened to this on the recommendation of a friend. Daft but incredibly catchy power metal anthems with suitably stupid lyrics. Some songs are very repetitive though. Not much in the way of new ideas - the first riff on the album being lifted straight from the mid-section of Maiden classic 'Sign Of The Cross' illustrating this perfectly. [6.0]
53. Amon Amarth - The Great Heathen Army
[Melo, Sweden] A bit uninspired this, really. A bit like this comment. A few fun moments as ever, but not enough of them for anything to really grab you like peak AA. And Biff Byford's guest spot is naff, unsurprisingly. [6.0]
54. Necrophagous - In Chaos Ascend
[Death, Sweden] It seems a curious thing to release a debut album in this style in 2022 to be honest. Straight up death metal really. Tightly played and produced, sure, but bang average overall. [6.0]
55. Monuments - In Stasis
[Djent/Math, UK] There's been the occasional djent release I've found genuinely interesting over the years - Februus by Uneven Structure or Vildhjarta's debut for example - but I've never really been into the style wholesale. This has some cool riffs (opening to 'No One Will Teach You', later on in 'False Providence', as djent records typically do, but very few songs that are engaging from start to finish (OK, maybe 'The Cimmerian'). Didn't like the clean vocals much though - especially not on 'Makeshift Harmony'. [6.0]
56. Toxik - Dis Morta
[Thrash/Progressive, USA] First album in 23 years for these veteran tech-thrashers and... it's OK, I guess? Some very nice riffs here, but the songwriting is incredibly messy and I really didn't dig the vocals here. Too many diversions into quasi-power metal territory makes the album a bit silly as a whole in my view. [5.5-6.0]
57. Parkway Drive - Darker Still
[Heavy/Metalcore, Australia] Some decent songs here: 'The Greatest Fear', for example. And the title track is genuinely excellent, softer and brooding with a couple of really nice leads. But ultimately this suffers from the same issues any metalcore or adjacent release will have - cringey lyrics, questionable vocal choices and uninteresting songwriting. [5.5-6.0]
58. Insecurity - Intruder Of Reality
[Thrash, Chile] By the numbers 80s thrash worship, lifting VERY clearly from early Metallica, Testament, Anthrax etc. Occasionally recalls early Blind Guardian-esque speed metal. A fun one-time listen, but incredibly derivative. [5.5]
59. Slipknot - The End, So Far
[Alternative/Nu, USA] Slipknot have always been a bit hit and miss for me. Their self-titled is incredible and I retrospectively really warmed to Iowa, but lost a bit of interest in their post-All Hope Is Gone material. When 'Adderall' dropped to promote this, I thought it might have been the precursor to a genuinely interesting change of direction, but it's actually just not a very enthralling record. [5.5]
60. Boris - W
[?, Japan] Can't say I've ever really bothered with Boris before, but they do have quite the reputation. Although it's hard to see why based on this! Sure, there are some individual moments that are cool, but overall this is an incoherent mish-mash of styles that don't fit well together and mostly sound unfinished. [4.0]

Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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