Best of 2022: Zyklonius’s List

Best of 2022

Huzzah, good riddance to another weird year, not only on both personal and professional fronts which basically prevented me from engaging in music writing, but also in terms of metal itself. Weird in the sense that multiple previous EOY luminaries released albums that failed to resonate, while bands that had not clicked for me on earlier albums decided to surprise me. Amidst all the oddity, there was thankfully a degree of cosmic justice and continuing reliability, as old favorites released their best work to date while relative newcomers delivered on the promises and potential for greatness that were teased on their initial releases. Without further ado, here are my 15 favorite metal albums of 2022.

15. Lykotonon – Promethean Pathology

Lykotonon - Promethean Pathology

Promethean Pathology is black metal for filling abandoned warehouses with stomping beats, wicked bass lines and acidic smoke. It feels timeless by vividly recalling the era when black metal began consummating its curious interest in industrial, avant-garde and electronic music and by seamlessly integrating these elements into its metallic essence in diverse ways. Most importantly, Lykotonon avoids the trap of nostalgia by exploring new deviant avenues and ensuring variety in the character and application of its non-metal influences and ingredients.

14. Path of Might – Deep Chrome

And the 2022 award for the most kick-ass intro riff of an opening song goes to Path of Might’s “Viper Matrix.” Moments like when Spencer Medley’s bellow joins the aforementioned riff at the 13-second mark or when the song suddenly turns into a dirge that recalls Type O Negative and proceeds to outdo the Drab Four, make it abundantly clear that Path of Might invokes and wields with aplomb the potential for magic that is inherent in metal. And the rest of the album is no less impressive, forming a majestic psychedelic whole that traverses sun-drenched deserts and vast cosmic pathways alike. Hypnotic and powerful, Deep Chrome was one of the great surprises of 2022.

13. Gloson – The Rift

Gloson - The Rift

With the mass and girth of majestic monuments and the power to topple them, The Rift hurled Gloson to the highest echelons of atmospheric sludge and post-metal. The adroit way Gloson injects nuance and tiny variation amidst the crushing devastation helps ensure increasing rewards during successive listening sessions. In particular, the two final tracks, “Cerberus (Exodus IV)” and “Ultraviolet,” are testament to the excellence of Gloson’s cinematic songwriting. 

12. Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality

Psychonaut - Violate Consensus Reality

My expectations for Violate Consensus Reality were sky-high following “The Great Realisation,” Psychonaut’s superlative contribution to the 2021 split release with labelmates SÂVER. The album’s variety of styles, moods and captivating permutations of Psychonaut’s core sound is simply breathtaking, encompassing the likes of the frantic off-kilter rumble of “All Your Gods Have Gone,” the glowing and fragile optimism of “Hope” and the slow-burn grandness of the title track. Most impressively, Violate Consensus Reality possesses a degree of immediacy and vibrancy and a storm of riffs that are uncommon to post-metal and elevate the album above genre conventions.

11. Worm – Bluenothing

Worm - Bluenothing

For whatever now-unfathomable reason, last year’s Foreverglade failed to click for me, but Bluenothing stunned me with its immersive symphonic majesty, soaring leads and delicious shredding. It has a general unpredictability replete with dynamic twists that captivate the curious listener on the edge of one’s seat, in awe of how beautifully the mini-album progresses.

[Ian’s review]

10. The Antichrist Imperium – Volume III: Satan in His Original Glory

The Antichrist Imperium - Volume III: Satan in His Original Glory

What, you need actual words to complement and expand on that album cover? With Volume III, The Antichrist Imperium made a triumphant return to spreading their Satanic gospel, more vicious, intense and, somewhat counterintuitively, elegant than ever before. According to science, it should not be conceivable or physically feasible to achieve such ecstatic bursts of sonic violence, blinding velocity and raw impact, yet here we are, witness to something truly marvelous, utterly decadent and ravenously transgressive.

9. Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons

tómarúm - ash in realms of stone icons

Progressive black metal executed with the ferocity, velocity and dexterity of technical death metal? Sign me up and let me cannonball into this boiling ocean of emotions. The way Ash in Realms of Stone Icons phases from moments of contemplation to furious charges of neck-snapping white-knuckle intensity, while maintaining absolute cohesion of its ambitious long-form compositions, is nothing short of astonishing. Very few bands can rival Tómarúm’s vitality and vigor.

8. Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Haunter - Discarnate Ails

It is mind-blowing to think Haunter started as a screamo band and grew into the amazing entity that created something as harrowing as Discarnate Ails, an album full of sudden shifts and savage lashes executed from behind a murky mist of jangling dissonance, the sonic equivalent of self-administering a heroic dose of psychedelic drugs and willingly leaping into the path of an unhinged berserker lunging out of primordial chaos to cleave and maim. 

7. JADE – The Pacification of Death

JADE came out of nowhere and suckerpunched me with the force of an unstoppable juggernaut. The Pacification of Death will have you recall the majestic muscle and atmosphere of Sulphur Aeon and Bølzer and the first time you heard early Paradise Lost, but as soon as the soaring psychedelic leads and stygian melodies grab you by the throat, you are teleported to JADE’s own underworld to learn the true meaning and nature of atmospheric death metal. The Pacification of Death is one of those rare albums that captivates from the get-go and sows disbelief by continuously gaining further momentum and upping the ante, track by track, in terms of gripping impact and epic memorability. Believe me, you will squeeze those invisible oranges to smithereens multiple times before reaching the end of the album.

6. WAKE – Thought Form Descent

Wake - Thought Form Descent

Greater and more handsome wordsmiths than yours truly have described eloquently the utter excellence of Thought Form Descent, WAKE’s crowning achievement which should serve as a case study example in music academies on the topic of how a metal band can push the envelope and continue its evolution and artistic growth across albums. To quote Vincent, Thought Form Descent is imbued with “a stirring and cinematic sense of melody and scope” and  “comes on you like a tsunami; the sheer scope of everything contained here knocks you immediately off your feet and pulls you under, forever swallowing you in its depths.” Truer words were never spoken.

[Buke’s interview with WAKE’s Ryan Kennedy]

5. Aenaon – Mnemosyne

Mnemosyne was worth the six-year wait; a thrilling joyride that is infectious and intoxicating, smells like an absinthe den and swaggers and swings with the confidence of a young decadent who has his belly full of finest wine and his brain brimming with wild ideas. To continue the Dionysian metaphor, Aenaon’s cup of creativity, memorable riffs and immediate hooks overflows. This is a stunning masterclass in how to incorporate saxophone into boundary-pushing black metal and create instrumental interludes that are essential and integral to the whole. It is unusual for black metal to be such rollicking fun and at the same contain a remarkable degree of artistic ambition, wit and passion. 

4. Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade

Aeviterne - The Ailing Facade

Experimentation and dissonance seldom feel as alluring as on The Ailing Facade, an album that weaves dreams of annihilation and conveys a palpable sense of foreboding horror that is equal parts abstract and tangible. Masterful use of empty space and warping thereof into non-euclidean shapes form a central pillar of Aeviterne’s modus operandi. While the resulting sonic labyrinths are shrouded by a disorienting haze and glimpses of ever-shifting shadows, a peculiar je ne sais quoi permeates the album and evokes a weird yet cathartic feeling of weightlessness. There are moments when Ian Jacyszyn’s commanding drumming and Garrett Bussanic’s spectral raspy howl, coupled with sparse notes from guitars and droning synths, are all that is required for conjuring up phantasmagorical visions and oddly enthralling soundscapes that carve a permanent home in the listener’s mind (Case in point: while I was recently in Finland, I walked through a major blizzard in pitch-black darkness and zero visibility while listening to “Still the Hollows’ Sway,” a sensory experience which felt like stepping into a sunless void, albeit a most pleasant one). The Ailing Facade is a truly magnificent work of art that manifests the imaginative power and experimental potential of death metal.

[Buke’s interview with Aeviterne’s Ian Jacyszyn]

3. Allegaeon – Damnum

Allegaeon - Damnum

Perennially divisive among the Nine Circles team, on Damnum Allegaeon lands at the elusive goldilocks zone where technical, progressive and melodic strains of death metal meet with stunning results. Damnum is Allegaeon firing on all cylinders, exhibiting dazzling musicianship and compelling songwriting, unleashing countless memorable hooks and haymaker riffs, and traversing devastating emotional peaks and valleys; in other words, all that you’ve come to expect from the band.

[Buke’s interview with Allegaeon’s Riley McShane]

2. Cult of Luna – The Long Road North

Cult of Luna - The Long Road North

It now appears that Cult of Luna’s excellent 2020 EP The Raging River was a mere warning shot and a teaser ahead of The Long Road North. From the menacing opening klaxon blast to the final fading ambient echo, it is a masterful emotional journey that reaches cinematic heights and forms a singular artistic achievement in the band’s over 20-year career, blending perfectly the cold industrial and warmer organic hues of recent releases into something that feels inviting and intimate as well as regal and colossal in equal measure.

1. Autarkh III – Roadburn Redux 2021

Autarkh - III Roadburn Redux

The twisted DNA of Dodecahedron and Ulsect was front and center on Autarkh’s 2021 debut album Form in Motion, which claimed the 14th spot on my list of best albums of that year. Form in Motion was specifically the kind of metal album that does not qualify for an entry in the Metal Archives despite its metal essence, due to its unusual extreme progressive and electronic elements. To quote my own writing, Form in Motion was “equal parts visceral and cerebral, with serpentine riffs and overwhelming barrages of disorienting beats and elements inspired by glitch, electro-industrial and IDM, like an ever-mutating dance floor illuminated by bursts of asynchronous strobes and incendiary beams of light.” Form in Motion was a prime example of the amorphous nature and malleable potential of metal, in how it disassembled, warped and reassembled the core elements of extreme music. Testament to Autarkh’s unrivaled creativity, the band proceeded to reimagine the album with new shapes, layers, and textures, in their own words as an “alternative timeline of Form In Motion in a different musical context” of drone, ambient and industrial, and presented, under the moniker Autarkh III, the resulting vision as a live set at the 2021 Roadburn Redux which was subsequently released in 2022. What I love about this album is how it supercharges ambient and drone as distinct genres and fuses those elements with the menacing and chaotic essence of Form in Motion, and the end result is something magical and immersive, that is at once enveloping and dynamic, cold and emotional, claustrophobic and liberating, deeply intimate and epic. I had the pleasure and privilege of selecting Roadburn Redux 2021 as our album of the month for April 2022 and of subsequently joining forces with Buke in interviewing Autarkh III. Ever since, the album has continued to find new avenues of impressing, electrifying and mesmerizing me by revealing new elements, aspects and nuances, in ways that have further solidified Autakh’s position as the vanguard of metal to come.

Zyklonius

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