Hello. Been a while, hasn’t it? Every year feels like it’s passing us by faster and faster, but the overwhelming amount of things to process this year has already made it impossible to fathom that 2022 is halfway over. If you are curious as to what music has been keeping me grounded for the last six months, now is as good a time as any to check in and see what the standout albums of the year are, as far as one humble author is concerned. Down to business then…
40 Watt Sun – Perfect Light
No, this is not a metal album. Yes, it is going on this list anyway. The gap between this album and even its closest competitor is so large that to say that anything else is my favorite album of the year would be completely disingenuous. There is no other album that has affected me as deeply as Perfect Light has so far this year, and I strongly suspect the same will be true when revisiting this topic six months from now. Vulnerable, open, brutally honest, and heartbreakingly beautiful, this is an album that you surrender to as much as you listen to.
Absent in Body – Plague God
Plague God is absolutely as good as an Amenra, Neurosis, and Sepultura collaboration would have you believe it could be. The juxtaposition of mechanical, grinding industrial and spacious atmosphere gives you the summation of everything these artists do best in their own bands, and the dual vocals of Scott Kelly and Amenra’s CHVE play off of each other in the best way. This is like the ’96 Chicago Bulls level of dream team.
Alexisonfire – Otherness
It is almost impossible to imagine any other band returning from a thirteen year absence with an album as good as Otherness is, but Alexisonfire are the only band ever for a good reason. On their grand return, the five-piece manage to take the best of the Old Crows/Young Cardinals atmospheric, sludgy formula and reinject elements of their hardcore punk origins, capped off as always by the one-of-a-kind vocals of Dallas Green. Sultry, soulful, and just as good now as they’ve ever been.
Falls of Rauros – Key to a Vanishing Future
An album so good, I forced everyone to dedicate a podcast episode to talking about it, and I’ll stand by that still. On Key to a Vanishing Future Falls of Rauros manage to considerably shake up their sound while keeping the core elements I have always loved in their place. It is a rare thing to find a band that can pull off a shift this drastic so successfully, but at this point I’m thoroughly convinced there is nothing Falls of Rauros can’t do.
Inexorum – Equinox Vigil
Minnesota’s Inexorum have put out what is inarguably the strongest album of their career. Equinox Vigil is a guaranteed good time; ferocious, melodic, uplifting black metal that straight up rocks at times. This is an album for driving too fast with the windows down, for psyching yourself up for whatever the day may bring, for celebration, and for catharsis.
Pyrithe – Monuments to Impermanence
What a year for Gilead Media. Shocker, coming from me, I know, but we are now hitting the three-peat with respect to their releases on this list, and Monuments to Impermanence might just be my favorite one yet. A masterclass in ruckus, a dissertation on noisemaking, there is no possible way to predict all the twists and turns this album will take you on, but it is a wild and unrestrained ride from start to finish. You can read more about it in the review I wrote on it here.
Sunrise Patriot Motion – Black Fellflower Stream
When not listening to metal this year, I’ve been having a lot of fun diving back into older goth rock and filling in some missing gaps in my listening habits. When I found out that the Brothers Skarstad of Yellow Eyes and Ustalost fame had teamed up some friends to make a goth rock/black metal hybrid album, it felt like an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even uttered yet. Unsurprising given the consistency in quality that these musicians carry across all their projects, but Black Fellflower Stream is wholly unique in its approach and a rousing success all the way through. You’re not going to hear anything else that sounds like this all year.
Terzij de Horde – In One of These, I Am Your Enemy
After all the (good-natured, I promise) yelling, demanding, and banging of fists on tables by Cat and I, we finally have Terzij de Horde’s follow-up to 2015’s Self and it somehow manages to be better than I could have ever dreamed of. Transcendent in its beauty, righteous in its fury, this is less an album and more a force of nature, one that grips you and does not let go for even a second. Every black metal album should also be a screamo album.
Ultha – All That Has Never Been True
I will be honest here; Ultha are a band I have been trying to get into for a long time, but I have been largely unsuccessful at doing so. I can’t even say what it is that keeps me from getting into their music, but I haven’t found it very compelling in past listens. There is something that is palpably different on All That Has Never Been True, however, that captivates me. It feels darker somehow, with a much more dour, urban atmosphere that permeates these songs. It feels less forlorn and more menacing and much more to-the-point in its execution. It is, I think, one of my favorite black metal releases this year.
Thank you for checking in with me. I’ll see you in the next one.