Scholar of the First Sin: Hera’s Best of 2022

Best of 2022

Last year, I supplied a list of 20 albums, thinking that I would be able to shorten to ten by the time list season came around. As it would turn out, even the best-laid plans can be upended, so I am back in EOY list hell.

Welcome to slowly wondering if I was too hasty in writing my lists EOY list season!

You know the drill: there are 20 albums here, and I reviewed some of them. Eps are off the list, which means Epica’s brilliant The Alchemy Project will not be here. With this is mind, this list is divided into four parts, which are as follows:

  • the nebulous, where any of those albums’ placements could be placed anywhere at any time
  • the hypothetical, where the albums’ placements are more concrete, but can also be moved around
  • the theoretical, where the albums’ placements have been solidified
  • the top album of the year. Please start placing your bets.

Also, please note: I submitted a previous list to our benevolent editors, which you’ll see soon. Since then, and even while writing this list, I have made so many changes in placement because I couldn’t decide where they all fit in the grand scheme of things. With this, I now present the fruits of my labor.

Here we go!

Part I: The Nebulous

20. Hath – All That Was Promised

It’s been a while since I listened to Hath, but All That Was Promised immediately pulled me in on a first listen. If there is one thing that Hath improved upon from their previous effort, it’s the sound quality; whoever did their mastering clearly knew exactly what they were doing. I usually don’t tend to enjoy blackened death metal, but something about All That Was Promised makes me want to take a second look. For one thing, the music is catchy, compelling, and has enough riffs to melt the local ice queen. It can become proggy at times as well, especially in the latter half where Hath switches up their sound. All That Was Promised also moves at a break-neck pace that leaves you in a constant state of wanting to tap your foot or bop your head to the beat. Its frenetic energy and seamless transitions from one track to the next allows the album to breeze by. There are no filler songs here; all of them, from the frenetic to the most melodic, belong here and they are all fucking heavy. I love a record that simultaneously melts my face off and makes me enjoy death metal with the force of a cannon. All That Was Promised delivers on its promise of heavy riffs, superb musicianship, and a range of tracks that are all entirely different from each other. Besides, I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time listening to this album in the new year, especially on my early morning commutes to the office.

19. Aenaon – Mnemosyne

An album that oozes death metal aesthetics, jazz influences, and touches of electronica; Mnemosyne hits the ground running with a fantastic black metal song before shifting into unprecedented territory. The level of experimentation is only overshadowed by how cohesively layered the album is, allowing it to breathe when the music shifts from one moment to the next. There are also moments here where the music takes on a black ‘n’ roll sound that gives the songs a catchy feel. I found myself moving my head to the melody on each track, especially when either the saxophone or what sounded like distorted keys surfaced in the background of the track. They accentuate the weird nature of the album, but it’s done tastefully, as if giving the listener space to take everything in. I also love that Mnemosyne provides palate cleansers at various points, such as the wonderfully eerie and seductive “Pleiades” and the catchy trip-hoppy “Clark Nova,” as if to show you that they are not afraid to mix things up, to show a little eclecticism. Each track feels as if Aenaon is slowly ramping up the avant-garde – they carefully guide a listener through a mire of different sounds and textures, while gradually pushing them out of their comfort zone. Because of this, Mnemosyne is possibly one of the most accessible avant-garde metal albums out there, as anyone who is interested in this type of music will find themselves wanting to take apart each song and further deconstruct it. If you let it, Mnemosyne would burrow itself into your memory, forever eternal.

18. Falls of Rauros – Key to A Vanishing Future

After writing the review (context) and talking about it on its own podcast episode, I told myself that this album would rank high on my EOY list – and then I placed it here. An album that covers new ground for Falls of Rauros, Key to a Vanishing Future is a behemoth of majestic, expansive sound that lulls you into a false sense of security and comfort before unleashing their brand of black metal. The first half follows what the band originally explored on Patterns of Mythology, picking up right where that album ended. Falls of Rauros continues to experiment with slight influences of prog and post-rock, embedding it into their music, allowing the listener to sit in its atmosphere and be swept off their feet by their melodies. However, once “Known World Narrows” kicks in, Falls of Rauros reminds you that they are still, at their core, a black metal band. Here, the focus shifts to the music, where the emphasis is on the instruments and how well they are being played. Listening to this again now reminds me that, despite black metal being a cesspool filled with its own problems, there are still diamonds to be found if you know where to look. I feel a certain shame for placing Key to A Vanishing Future here, but time has taken its toll on me, and I just forgot. Excuses aside, I am excited to see what Falls of Rauros will do next, and whether their sound will take a new direction or continue to explore the sonic themes that they covered here.

17. Dir En Grey (Diru) – Phalaris

Named after the creator of the Brazen bull, a torture device that roasted victims alive, Phalaris is a more melodic affair, sounding more like 2014’s Arche in parts, by having more strings, more harmonies, and more of an optimistic outlook in their music. This makes it more accessible to new listeners, especially if they were charmed by the band’s previous effort. However, don’t be fooled: this is still Diru at their most abrasive, at their most charming, and they pull no punches. The band doesn’t hesitate to lull you with songs that sound familiar, before deciding to switch to a different cue in the track itself. Want a ballad in the middle of a bridge? Diru’s got it on first track “Schadenfreude.” Want some bleak black metal blast beats backed with strings? “The Perfume of Sins” has that too. Phalaris is a smorgasbord of different sonic textures and ideas that Diru willingly explores, crafting songs that pulse outside of the boundaries the band has set for them. However, Phalaris does fall a bit short for me. For a while, I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but it turns out that most of my issues with this album is the track “Eddie.” It feels like this song doesn’t belong here at all, acting more as something that Diru wants to show off rather than something ties most of the tracks together. It’s also the most thrashy song in Diru’s entire catalogue, and that doesn’t sit well with me. Despite this, Phalaris is still a wonderful record that needs to be listened with attention; any sort of gratification you can get from this album will be delayed until the end.

16. Sylvaine – Nova

Nova was a surprise for me, in that I had heard great things about Sylvaine, but hadn’t given the project much thought after their first album. I originally wasn’t planning to listen to Nova – my interest in this type of black metal had been waning since late 2021 – but then I saw them on two different tours less than seven months apart, and I mentally kicked myself for not getting to this album sooner. There is something compelling about an album that offers warmth in its inherent darkness, where the highest shrieks give way to superb instrumentation, gorgeous vocals, and atmospheric texture. During both of those concerts, I found myself dancing along to the band’s music, their energy evident and vibrant. They came alive on stage in a way that you can’t get from simply listening to this album alone. However, despite this, you can still find yourself moving your head in beat to Nova, even on songs like “Fortapt.” I was also taken by the amount of layering that went into these compositions, as each song has a very distinct feeling despite their overarching, melancholic theme. The way the album is composed and mixed reminds me of post-metal, where lines are blurred, sensations flow freely, and comfort is sought after. I know this band gets compared to Alcest, given that Neige has collaborated with Sylvaine on occasion, but Nova has allowed them to cement their own identity. Having seen them perform only increased the appeal for me, and I want to sit in their sound forever.

15. Aeternam – Heir of the Rising Sun

Heir of the Rising Sun was brought to my attention by a friend who essentially told me to listen to this album because he knew I would enjoy it – and he was right. Another one of the many albums I left until the last minute, Heir of the Rising Sun tells the fascinating story of the rise of the Ottoman Empire, chronicling Osman I’s desire to create an empire to the eventual fall of Constantinople. To add more to the appeal of the historical epic, the music’s bombast gives the album a cinematic feel, as if you are listening to a film score rather than a metal album. Aeternam is not afraid to go big in their music, clearly shown by the level of detail and the way their compositions seem to test the limits of their mastering quality. They are incredibly dense, layered with choral and orchestral arrangements, catchy melodies, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and strategic narration that gives you an idea of what is happening while the album plays. Take, for example, the superbly expansive “The Treacherous Hunt,” this is easily one of the tracks to take notice of, a song that that Aeternam clearly wanted executed in a certain way and they succeeded. It is easily one of the most compelling songs on the entire album, and many would consider it to be one of the album’s many highlights. With comparisons to Fleshgod Apocalypse abound, Aeternam are clearly a band that delivers on their promise for a fantastic record, and this could easily be considered a future magnum opus.

Part II: The Hypothetical

14. Rammstein – Zeit

If 2019’s Untitled was a return to form for the band, then Zeit is the reflecting period. Due to upended plans for a long tour promoting Untitled, Rammstein returned to the studio, composing new music for fun. These new compositions eventually became Zeit, an album that is heavy with themes of strife, nostalgia, and social commentary. I think this album is one of the more vulnerable releases on Rammstein’s catalogue, even with upbeat songs like “Zick Zack” and “Dickie Titten.” Here, the slower, almost ballads take precedence, as if showing that the band, while having achieved more than they probably dreamed of, are starting to slow down. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable, to think about everything they have done. Rammstein evokes images of impressive pyrotechnics, taboo topics, catchy hooks, and fun music that can be played to unsuspecting people without translation, but they are no longer a new band. They are in their golden years, and they are thinking about ending things. For them, the passage of time is evident – they are no longer young men, and when things do eventually end, their legacy will be what remains. These last couple of years has made many reflect on how things could have been, on events that could have happened, and Rammstein is no exception. If final track “Adieu” is anything to go by, it seems the end is near, and for those who have been here for the ride will be here for it. Zeit is an album for the times, a reflection of things that could have been. For that reason alone, it has become a sleeper favorite.

13. Erebe – Aeon

One of the three post-metal albums on this list, Aeon is probably the most balanced, in that their two main vocalists get to shine on their respective parts and don’t have to fight for dominance. However, while the vocalists are amazing, it’s on the instrumentation where Erebe truly shines; they are not only able to move from energetic post-rock to sludgy post-metal on the drop of a vocal change, but they also layer their sound to accommodate for those changes. I originally reviewed this album (context) because the premise for Aeon sounded like something I would be into: accessibility, catchy hooks, and moving passages of music. Because of Aeon’s structure, you get two halves of the same whole: a more traditional post-metal sound on the first half, where everything seems to fall into a liminal space, which leads to seamless transitions between tracks. It’s almost soft, as you are slowly waking up with the sun. However, on the second half, the music becomes more experimental, more chaotic, and it places more emphasis on the heaviness of the sound. Gone is their hand holding and their softness; here, the music is heavier and darker, asking you to accept Aeon as it is: a tempest. Those two halves eventually come together on the final track “The Collector,” a 10-minute song whose lead chorus has been living rent-free in my memory, with Luc Lemay of Gorguts acting as the anchor in a sea of expansive soundscapes. For a debut, Aeon certainly does not pull punches, and it saddens me to place it here. However, I take solace in the fact that Aeon is one of my favorite albums and a hidden gem for post-metal enjoyers.

12. Down For Whatever – Mondd El

Another band behind the infamous “The Hungarian Depression Pit” playlist, Down For Whatever, a band I found in early 2022, released the incredibly catchy and aggressive Mondd El, which has been on heavy rotation since early October. This album scratches an itch for a metalcore sound even though I would never use that genre descriptor for them. Mondd El has everything: catchy choruses, bombastic anthems that are absolute bangers, a rap section on “Voltam/Leszek,” and two poignant ballads. I cannot tell you just how much I have listened to Mondd El, but the way their music resonates with me is terrifying. I can’t even tell you the last time I took to this kind of metal so quickly, but whatever the band is doing, it certainly works for them. I personally would describe Down For Whatever as a happy medium between honorable mentions Depresszió and Leander Kills, where they are clearly a young band who know what they are doing but seem more inclined to take their time in writing music. I consider Mondd El to be just a great album overall, and its high replay value means you will get a lot out of it each time you listen to it. The music sits in your brain, which means you will be either singing along badly in Hungarian or whistling along to the main vocal parts. However, it doesn’t beat the quality and the pizazz of Zuhanás, which continues to have a grip on my soul. Regardless of your opinions about “modern metal,” Down For Whatever is a great example of a band who knows what sound they want and how to get there.

11. Amorphis – Halo

Amorphis continues to be one of the most consistent bands out there, with the impressive Halo now ending what I term as the trilogy since the release of Under The Red Cloud. With their blend of folk-influenced death metal, Halo continues to show why Amorphis are still kicking after so many years in the business. The music is catchy, melodic as hell, and just fun to listen. Tomi Joutsen’s voice is top-notch, and you can tell he’s having a great time on this album as well. Everything about Halo – from the instrumentation to its production to the ballads – is exceptional, and I am so happy the band waited to release music rather than release it in 2021. However, of the three albums released in the past seven years, I think Halo might be the weakest. After you have sat with the music for a while, you notice that some of the same motifs and themes that carried over from Queen of Time became stale, in that they become predictable in their musical structure. At some point, my memory started to play tricks on me, and then I remembered that the backing guitar on “Seven Roads Come Together” sounded the same as on “Sky Is Mine.” Granted, this is still a highly enjoyable album – it ranks high here! – but I also like some unpredictability in my music, and Amorphis has become complacent in that regard. Despite my own misgivings about Halo, I still enjoy listening to it, even on numerous repeats. We will see if Amorphis will be willing to change anything on their next record; after all, the final songs after “Seven Roads Come Together” show some interesting music coming on the horizon.

10. Septicflesh – Modern Primitive

Modern Primitive is everything I love about well-done symphonic death metal: the drama and flair of impressive orchestrations, heavy death metal that rips through the veneer of niceness, vocals that cement the idea that everything belongs in a performance hall, and music that speaks to the confines of my soul. This is what I mean when I say that bands should not limit themselves in scope and in their ability to compose music. Septicflesh is the standard for bands who are known as composers first and musicians later – they can compose fantastic pieces, incorporating all aspects of a well-oiled orchestra, and then they must perform it for the audience. At this point in their career, Septicflesh has their sound cemented and polished, and you already know what you will get with Modern Primitive. It also has a taut runtime of 38 minutes, which means Septicflesh can give a listener the best cuts of their music without filler. Each song is both succinct yet atmospheric in their sound, and they are cohesive in working as parts of a whole. What I personally love the most about this album is just how quickly you can suspend your disbelief as soon as it starts. It grips you immediately, keeping you rooted until the album ends. I found myself many times bopping my head or, if I was alone, dancing along to the music, because I must let my energy out somehow. I love this album with my entire being, and the only reason it’s not higher on my list is due to time. If you are looking for fantastic symphonic death metal from established titans, then look no further than Modern Primitive – you will not be disappointed.

9. Devin Townsend – Lightwork

I really loved Devin’s previous effort, Empath, but I had to take a break from listening to Devin because the music burned me out. While Empath showed the range of music Devin could compose, Lightwork is a more streamlined piece, sticking to what most Devin fans are familiar with, but adding a twist here and there. Written during the pandemic lockdown, Lightwork shows a softer, subtler side to Devin, as if he took the time to write music that would resonate. The music is beautiful, meticulously detailed, and it sounds like sea-foam green, like the ebb and flow of the sea. Of course, in true Devin fashion, there are plenty of heavy moments for those of us (read: me) that like the heavier stuff in Devin’s catalogue. For example, “Lightworker” has heavier vocals and a greater emphasis in the walls of sound that make his music sound grander than it is. Lightwork also does not feel like a solo effort, in that Devin brought in a producer to help bring this album to fruition. Because of this, this album is more song-oriented – the music and the way it makes the listener is the most outstanding thing it has to offer, and that is something to appreciate across Devin’s vast catalogue. As a side note, I also love that one of my favorite B-side tracks from Transcendence, “Celestial Signals,” got reworked as an actual song for the album, and yes, you bet I have played that song a lot since the album was released. I know a lot of people might not be inclined to listen to Lightwork, but you should, just for the atmosphere it brings.

Part III: The Theoretical

File all these albums under “Things Hera Will Never Shut Up About”.

8. White Ward – False Light

white ward - false light

We are back to talking about saxophones again, because, of course, I would not shut up about White Ward. Another one of my reviews for the year (context), False Light is a triumph for the band, revisiting themes from Love Exchange Failure but also continuing to expand on their sound. I also love the album features clean vocals, as it gives the music this eerie effect, as if you are lucky to hear it. In a sense, that’s correct – it’s hard to talk about a band’s triumphs when it seems like their world is falling apart. The war in Ukraine has uprooted everything, fear and strife now a common feeling that I can only begin to comprehend. These sentiments, along with the eeriness and the somber nature of the music itself, give False Light an infernal quality to it. For me, this is what black metal should be: it should be able to make the listener question more than whether an album needs to have certain instruments that make it stand out among its peers. False Light makes you question everything, as it takes the time to explore the human condition through the lens of disenfranchisement and the essence of our existence. It’s a difficult album to digest, given its themes and the complexity of its music, but it’s through this album that we can see, perhaps a light at the end. I honestly wished I had spent more time listening to False Light; it would have been a welcome balm to my weary soul, but time has not been kind to me, and I forgot about it. Despite this, there aren’t many bands like White Ward, so to have False Light out in the world is a true delight.

7. Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality

Psychonaut - Violate Consensus Reality

Pelagic Records has clearly been doing the Lord’s work, as they have been putting out consistent bangers that I love. Considering how late in the year Psychonaut’s newest album came out, I did not expect it to jump as quickly as it did. Another album on this list that explores the range of the human condition, Violate Consensus Reality is an album that makes me want to play this loudly to feel its vibrations. I have said this many times, but if I were to make music, it would sound something like this, given the interplay between aggression and melody, the way the music is orchestrated, and the emotional range of vocals. Despite the bleakness of the music or the way it’s supposed to make me feel – too many things at once – there is something bright about it. It’s hard to explain this but Violate Consensus Reality can hit the synesthetic part of my brain rather easily, as it feels like a wave of orange and golden hues of color just comes at you from different sides. During the softer parts of songs, such as the instrumentals or the first few minutes of the title track, the music becomes brighter, almost hopeful. We cannot mire in our misery forever, letting it envelop us into a miasma of despair and suffering. We cannot let it violate the current consensus in our reality, where there is a chance that things will be worse before they get better. This is a highly introspective album, as most post-metal is, but it has some extroversion to it. After all, when you get Stefanie Mannaerts of Brutus and Colin H. van Eeckhout from Amenra to be part of your album, then you know things are about to get extremely colorful.

6. Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind

I have a lot of thoughts about Vaxis II, even months after its release. While I loved Vaxis I: The Unheavenly Creatures for the story and the amazing “Queen of the Dark,” the music in Vaxis II is better in comparison. Obviously, this continues the story originally told in Vaxis I, but the good thing about this album is that any and all of the songs here can be taken out of context. Need a fun song that can be played to your friends? “Comatose” is your go-to. Need a song to listen to after a break-up? “Love Murder One” is a particular favorite. Need a song that sounds like the denouement to a suspenseful film? Look no further than “Ladders of Supremacy,” a song that ratchets up the thrills in the actual Vaxis story. The music is so damn good that you can just replay it without the story context. The music also has some great influences: from prog to arena rock to a slight R&B feel, Vaxis II thrives in showing the range of the human emotional spectrum. While this is still fundamentally an album with a story to tell, the actual album is inspired by Claudio Sanchez’s family life, showcasing the ups and downs of marriage and fatherhood. In a sense, Vaxis II tells the story of parents willing to do anything for their child, even if it means coming to disagreements about how best to handle the circumstances that have befallen them. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic album and, even if you haven’t listened to Vaxis I, Vaxis II will give you something new to love about Coheed and Cambria.

5. Bloodywood – Rakshak

It’s ironic that my sister, who’s famously not a metalhead, was the one who told me that this album had been released, and so I decided to make amends. Rakshak seemed to come out of nowhere and proceeded to decimate all my expectations for 2022. For the better part of about two months, I played this album on loop, taking in all of the details and the different intricacies that made Rakshak one of the most outstanding releases of 2022. From the nu-metal influence to the Indian folk that gives the music some fantastic color, Rakshak is an album asking people to act as saviors in their world. From addressing sexual harassment to battling depression, the themes hit hard, even with the language barrier. However, you can still glean the songs’ meaning from Raoul Kerr’s English rapping, whose fast flow and aggressive cadence makes sure the listener understands the nuance of language. Although there have been plenty of albums that have hit me hard this year – look no further than one of the previous albums on this list! – Rakshak hits hard because it discusses themes prevalent in our modern times. In a sense, 2022 has allowed us to become extremely apathetic to what is happening in the world, including to what is happening to us. It’s difficult to care about things when it feels like there’s no end in sight, but Rakshak acts a hopeful beacon in the dark. It may not have been the top album on this list, but it won the top album in my heart. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, please listen to this album – it’s so damn good.

4. Ithaca – They Fear Us

Oh, man, you already knew this album was coming. I was counting down the days for this album’s release when it was announced and you bet I listened to this the minute it dropped. They Fear Us is a powerful album in every sense of the word – everything about this album screams power. In a sense, They Fear Us is an album about the power of community, the power of self, and, at the same time, about the inherent lack of power you may have because you don’t fit a certain schema or idea. However, acknowledging that you lack power may be the most powerful thing you have – after all, this is how you start fighting back. They Fear Us is bombastic, relentless, yet melodic, an evolution from 2019’s The Language of Injury, an album heavily cemented in post-hardcore. Here, the music remains cemented in hardcore, but the music is brighter, bolder, more instrumentally oriented, and lacks a filter. The vocals have also shifted, as vocalist Djamila Boden Azzouz gives equal airtime to both her screams and her clean vocals, whereas the previous album also showed off her screams. They are a duo to contend with, as while the harsh vocals act as the harbinger of news and rhetoric, the clean vocals punctuate. They hurt in a different way, to remind you that, yes, things are changing and there is nothing you can do about it. The more time I spent with They Fear Us, the more I began to identify with it. They – whoever that is – must fear me, someone whose existence in a country they came to at a young age has been used as a political bargain chip. They fear us and what we can do, and they cannot stop us.

3. Terzij de Horde – In One of These, I Am Your Enemy

Terzij de Horde - In One Of These, I Am Your Enemy

After Vince and I politely asked about a new album from our Utrecht boys for a number of years, we finally received the long-awaited album of our dreams and, boy, isn’t this album amazing! I originally wrote the review for this album (context), so I might be slightly biased about it, but holy hell does this album hit like a ton of bricks. … I Am Your Enemy is an album that makes you question how you perceive your reality and whether we are truly the ones in control of our fate. Unlike Self, which was more of an atmospheric affair, …I Am Your Enemy is aggressive, highly melodic, and makes you want to punch something. The music is also incredibly dense, with most of its intricacies packed in the last two songs, which have run times higher than 10 minutes. That’s right – this behemoth of an album is three tracks long with a runtime of 30 minutes. Both of those tracks can be segmented into smaller sections that could potentially become a new idea, but they all work so seamlessly together, easily going from one melodic tone to the next. Of the final two tracks, “Precipice” is my favorite, particularly because of what I have been feeling like this year. It feels like I am teetering off a cliff that leads to permanent free fall, and I have no idea where I am going to land if there is a bottom floor. How can I recognize reaching the end of free fall if I have no concept of what the bottom looks like? How have I become untethered to the concept of reality? Now, that’s something to think about.

2. Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor

Zeal and Ardor - Zeal and Ardor

All hail Zeal & Ardor, for creating one of the most interesting albums of the year. Its continued push against established boundaries sets it apart from its peers, and I am so pleased I got to see them live this year when they were on tour in North America. I have been with this band since they released Devil Is Fine and the fact they continued to evolve from the inherent simplicity of slave chants and black metal to an industrial sound shows that the band will continue to experiment on future albums. Although I love how heavy the album can get, I love the quieter, somber (in comparison) songs on the record, such as “Golden Liar” and “Bow Your Low Head Low.” These act as rest pieces for the tracks to come, especially compared to the nihilistic “Erase” and the war-like “Götterdämmerung” (I personally love that he riffs off The Ring Cycle as a “fuck you” to Wagner). I think this album is incredibly important because it shows the potential for future black metal releases, and the fact that there is no band like Zeal & Ardor is a testament to its musical genius. Everything about Zeal & Ardor is immaculate and incredibly poignant, coming in after the surprise release of the Wake of A Nation EP. This is clearly an album for the times, and I have to say, seeing one of my favorite songs on the record, “J-M-B,” being performed live with Imperial Triumphant is a sight to behold. Jazz in black metal? It’s more likely than you think!

And my top album of 2022 is…

1. Playgrounded – The Death of Death

For a long time, Zeal & Ardor and The Death of Death fought for dominance as the top album for 2022, and while Zeal & Ardor is fantastic, it does not beat the intimacy I found on The Death of Death.

What else is there to say about an album that has haunted me since I first listened to it? As I said before, Pelagic Records has been doing the Lord’s work, so of course, Playgrounded would be the one to take my heart and run with it. Another album I wrote about (context), I originally did not think that The Death of Death would be my AOTY. I had listened to it, wrestled with an existential question about post-metal in the grander scheme of things, and then thought nothing of it. However, the more I spent with it on my walks home, especially as the days became shorter, the more it began to embed itself in my thoughts and memory. As someone who is barely sticking their feet into the post-metal pool, I originally thought that another album would take the top spot. Then, again, a post-metal album hasn’t been this embedded into my skin since Kontinuum’s No Need to Reason. The Death of Death also made me realize why I was so much into No Need to Reason: it made me seek out the inherent intimacy of darkness. Everything about the music conjures the feeling of being in the back of a small venue, creating this intimate atmosphere that you can’t get out of larger places. Even the music itself seems to envelop in its embrace, keeping you rooted until the album ends, and all you can do is melt in its embrace. I had originally placed The Death of Death as a high-ranking album in my EOY list, and, boy, was I correct. All hail Playgrounded.

And with that, we close the list once again.

2022 was a year – it went by so quickly that I couldn’t even tell you everything I did. I am trying to remain optimistic about 2023, but it is a little difficult when it looks like we are in a pressure cooker that’s about to explode. It’s also hard to be festive when it feels like everything is one step closer to the brink of absolute chaos.

After dealing with the repercussions of post-Covid normalcy, I have decided that I will not be talking about the pandemic much here. I have spent too much dealing with it – at my real-life job, in my personal life, and talking about it on the podcast – so I will spare everyone from it. You all deserve a break.

In the meantime, please stay safe, continue to follow your state/county health guidelines regarding Covid and other respiratory-related illnesses, and don’t be a fucking dummy.

Hasta la proxima!

Hera

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