What a year. It’s hard to believe that most of the hubbub and fervor of the last few years is fading into the background (read: not gone, not even a little bit). I feel like for once I had so much going on outside of sitting at home that I felt like it was a little hard to keep up with everything that came out this year, but nonetheless, there were a ton of albums that captivated me and kept me company, and we’re going to start with the honorable mentions. You get it by now: these albums are fantastic, but I only have room in my personal tops for nine albums, so don’t feel like I’m shortchanging any of these. Without further ado, here we go:
Wilderun – Epigone
It took me *quite* a long time to get into Veil of Imagination. When it clicked, it clicked super hard, but I literally had to force myself to listen to it over and over until it made sense to me. That was not the case with Epigone. I knew right away that this was something special, and by the time the Distraction Suite that closes out the album concluded, I was immediately ready to put it on again. Century Media is doing the lads quite nicely.
Epigone was the first review I wrote this year, and it was also our first album of the month this year! And Buke did an interview with them? Now that’s #content baby.
Falls of Rauros – Key to a Vanishing Future
Key to a Vanishing Future is both a departure and an embellishment of everything that makes Falls of Rauros one of the most memorable black metal acts of our time. This is by far a dark and brooding, almost pessimistic listen at first glance, those who stick with it find that the same incredible melodic sensibilities still reign supreme and take this listen to new heights as yet unexplored by the band. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Sylvaine – Nova
Nova was already one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I definitely fell in love with it upon first listen, but I think where Nova really shines is seeing these songs played live. Now that Katherine and Company are hitting the road stateside more, I was fortunate enough to be able to see her with Imperial Triumphant and Zeal and Ardor and it completely sold me on how much passion and emotion are in these tracks.
God Alone – ETC
How to adequately describe ETC? I still don’t really know, which is why this is an album that, while a later release in the year, has stuck with me pretty hard. It combines everything that I love about grinding, lumbering post-metal, earworm-heavy indie rock, weird psychedelia and so much more. There is truly nothing else out there that sounds like this, even other God Alone releases, and if you haven’t given this one a spin, you’re missing out.
Gaerea – Mirage
Who’s laughing now? Who’s cracking jokes now? Nobody, that’s who. Nobody is making jokes about Gaerea anymore, at least not on the staff here at any rate. If anyone thought that Gaerea weren’t poised to take over the black metal world, Mirage is the album to prove them all wrong. Every aspect of their sound has been honed to a razor sharp point, right down to taking a chance on switching their production up and it all pays off in spades.
Well, well, well. Whaddya know? Another one from me.
The Callous Daoboys – Celebrity Therapist
Speaking of albums that are unique and unclassifiable, we come to Celebrity Therapist, admittedly an album I knew I would like but did not expect to love. The Callous Daoboys have always done the mathcore scene well, and their inventive use of instrumentation have made them stand out among their peers, but the moments where they let that go and sink into full pop mode are what sells me on this record.
I promise I listened to more albums than just the ones I wrote about…but I wrote about this one too.
Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons
What’s better than this? Fretless bass solos. Do I need to say any more? Ash in Realms of Stone Icons came out of nowhere for me, but when I first listened to it, it ticked every box I could ever want it to tick. Acrobatics across all kinds of fretboards? Check. Progressive tendencies without being meandering or cheesy? Check. Gloomy atmosphere without being suffocating? Check. There’s nothing not to love here.
Zeal and Ardor – Zeal and Ardor
My beloved will probably disagree with me about where this album should end up (spoiler alert), but maybe that’s a sign of how good this year was for music that an album as stone cold incredible as Zeal and Ardor ended up in my “just barely didn’t make it” list. Like Nova, this album also comes to life when you see it live, especially when you’re lucky enough to see the two together.
Kardashev – Liminal Rite
Liminal Rites was also an album that I had high expectations for. A band with a meteoric trajectory (pun intended) like Kardashev, finally getting called up to the majors and on Metal Blade no less, sets the bar pretty high. Kardashev clears it and then some. Everything that makes the band unique is dialed up to the next level, especially the vocals from Mark Garrett, and the end results is much greater than just the sum of its parts.
Primitive Man – Insurmountable
What more is there to be said about the actual, for-real heaviest band in the universe? Even though it’s only an EP, Primitive Man somehow manages to keep their title by sonically pulverizing you into microscopic particles with their dense, chaotic and oppressive doom. On Insurmountable, they dial in some of the harsh noise elements they’re also known for to great effect, as if you weren’t crushed down enough already.
If you’d like to know what drink pairs nicely with getting your ass beat to a pulp, check out the Evcharist here!
Well, that’s one down, but I have a lot more albums to talk about in the next couple of days, so stick around for the rest of them, from me and everyone on the team. Our numbers grow by the day, and this plethora of content is a sure sign that 2023 will be the year we finally achieve world domination…of internet-based heavy metal music blogs.