Best of 2022: Corey’s List

Best of 2022


That, my friends, was a fucking ride.

Honestly, where do I even begin in recapping the year that was? Of course, all the global issues I lamented about at the end of last year are only getting worse, with a few new additions to the pile just for fucking fun. So to quickly catch everyone up, that doomsday clock is most definitely still ticking! But let’s narrow the scope a bit and make this all about me. That’s what we’re all really here for, right?

I’ll repeat: 2022 was a fucking ride. Challenges existed in seemingly every aspect of life in 2022 — perpetually dumb family drama, a complete collapse of job security (a situation that seems to be resolving itself, thankfully), an unexpected and subsequently chaotic move from the ocean to the mountains that has now been in process for four consecutive months (an overall positive development, but a challenge nonetheless), and, of course, the fact that costs are continuing to greatly outpace wages so being alive has become a massive financial burden on my life. You read that right. Yet, at the same time, 2022 was one of my best years. I can finally say I live among the mountains, even if that dust is still far from settling. I ran the Berlin Marathon and followed it up with a few days in Munich and Oktoberfest, two major bucket list items checked off. I photographed some of my favorite bands (twice, in the case of The Ocean), and had the privilege of shooting The Metal Tour of the Year, by far the largest show I’ve been fortunate enough to cover. And then, of course, Wyoming. A week of backpacking and exploring Yellowstone, followed by the return of Fire In The Mountains in the Tetons (the greatest festival on Earth, and one I am proud to say I was able to photograph as well) was probably the greatest single adventure I’ve experienced as an adult. The entire trip was a dream come true. So, yes, 2022 had its ups and downs, but when I look back on the year that was, it will be hard to do so with a negative perspective. And now that I’ve highlighted the last year of my life in a few sentences, let’s talk metal!

This was, without a doubt, the toughest EOY list I’ve ever had to assemble. I changed the order of my favorite albums dozens and dozens of times over the past couple of months. The difference between my favorite album and, say, my fifth favorite album is razor thin, and any of them could have ended at the top of this list. It was a great year, but when all was said and done, there was one that captivated me just a little more than the rest. Let’s stop the rambling here and finally get into it…


The Best

1. Nechochwen – Kanawha Black

nechochwen kanawha black


After weeks of overthinking my 2022 list, I feel ever more strongly about Kanawha Black sitting at the top of it. Nechochwen is folk-infused black metal, certainly, but it is also so much more than that. It’s the atmosphere created through their experimentation in and around these genres that locked me in listen after listen, month after month. Much like the complex geographic details hidden beneath the trees and shadows of an Appalachian panorama, all the contrasting elements of Kanawha Black come together to form a wide, sweeping soundscape that seems to stretch outward endlessly. And in saying all that, it’s not that Kanawha Black is an altogether fluid product when listened in full — pushing boundaries this aggressively and infusing this many competing styles certainly leads to some abrupt changes in sound and energy, creating a certain dichotomy. However, it never comes across as forced or unnecessary, it just inspires a broader perspective of Kanawha Black as a whole. The acoustic passages, as entrancing as they are, work to elevate the denser, heavier black and doom metal passages, rather than soften or restrain them. The transitions from one idea to the next are masterfully executed in a way that offers an opportunity for drama, intensity, and finally resolution as Kanawha Black rises and falls from one peak to the next, and all the valleys in between. Kanawha Black is brilliant, boundless, and my favorite album from 2022.

[Second Circle]

2. Nite – Voices of the Kronian Moon

nite - voices of the kronian moon


Truthfully, my top two albums this year are closer to 1A and 1B rather than 1 and 2. The latest from Nite has been near the top of the pile from the moment Voices of the Kronian Moon was released in March all the way through the end of year. There isn’t a thing about the form of heavy metal that Nite have created that I don’t adore. It’s old school familiar, yet still modern and refreshing, and it has this dark, distinctive mood that makes it an incredibly addicting listen. For 37 minutes this thing gallops along effortlessly, each track complementing the others, delivering its message efficiently and with precision. Every solo, every riff, every moment serves a role in the larger Voices of the Kronian Moon experience, and it’s this cohesion that allows the Nite energy to resonate as abundantly as it does. It’s what makes this album so impressive, and so memorable.

[Album Review]

3. Misþyrming – Með hamri

Misþyrming - Meo hamri


Despite how late in the year Með hamri arrived, it still found a place way up in my list… and probably could have climbed all the way to the top with just a few more listens. It’s that good. I’ve been a fan of Misþyrming since the release of Söngvar elds og óreiðu in 2015, and I can’t say enough about how well they’ve advanced their sound. Now, I don’t know if this latest effort will ever overtake take their debut as my favorite in their discography, time will tell in that regard, but the way they’ve worked in some added elements — including thrash and doom — really complements the blistering hot atmospheric black metal formula they’ve already perfected. Með hamri is more ambitious, more dynamic, while remaining true to the distinctive black metal foundation that sets Misþyrming apart, and all that exploration has paid off several times over, resulting in a damn near perfect album.

4. Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality

Psychonaut - Violate Consensus Reality


Two words: riff monster. This form of post-metal is nothing short of cataclysmic. There are times within this listen where you want to sway along, and then others where you’re completely pummeled into submission. And somehow, Psychonaut finds a way to make all these contrasting feelings and ideas work together in perfect balance over this 53 minute runtime. Violate Consensus Reality is an enthralling listen, end-to-end, driven by regular, yet often unexpected, changes in tempo and weight, filled to the absolute brim with one punishing riff after another. What could (and probably should) be a rather disjointed endeavor, somehow feels completely organized and natural, a testament to this album’s architecture, and making for arguably the most captivating album I heard all year.

5. Gaerea – Mirage

Gaerea - Mirage


This is the Gaerea form, executed to perfection. The atmospheric black metal project that has rapidly ascended in recent years reached a new threshold with Mirage. It has that distinct tension we recognize from the Unsettling Whispers and Limbo days, but this time around that same energy and passion has been sculpted, refined, and altered to become something even more immense. But it’s the way the intensity compounds itself before resolving on “Laude” that makes the Mirage journey so impressive. Mirage surrounds and overwhelms you with as dark of an environment as I’ve experienced all year. It’s unquestionably heavy, the emotional burden is tormenting, and I find that I can’t get enough of it. Gaerea’s momentum is off the charts right now, and it feels like they are on the verge of something truly incredible not only for them, but for black metal as a whole. I can’t wait to see what their next chapter holds.

[Album Review]

6. In The Woods… – Diversum

in the woods - diversum


It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of the In The Woods… revival that dates back to 2016’s Pure. Despite working through multiple lineup changes even in these most recent years, their unique brand of avantgarde black metal still lands with me in a way that nothing else can replicate. What’s interesting, however, is that the progressiveness and experimentation that made Pure and Cease the Day stand out isn’t quite so apparent on Diversum. Instead, we’re presented with a collection that is more structurally straightforward. The energy and mood is consistent, but the delivery feels more deliberate, complete with soaring, repeated choruses that makes these tracks tastefully catchy. Yet still, the end result is the same — Diversum will work its way into your head quickly, effectively, and refuse to relinquish its grasp.

[Album Review]

7. Lorna Shore – Pain Remains

Lorna Shore - Pain Remains


I’ll be honest, my familiarity with Lorna Shore going into 2022 was surface level awareness at most. And then the Red Wings played “To The Hellfire” during a game, and everything changed. That said, I don’t think I’m alone in having that track serve as my entry point to this project. Pain Remains may be the only Lorna Shore album I’ve listened to from start to finish, but it sure is a good one. There’s just something about the way they use symphonic elements to help drive their brand of deathcore that resonates so effectively, making the whole thing more accessible than one might first assume. Absurdly massive breakdowns, unrelenting rhythms and percussion, blistering leads, and a vocal delivery from newcomer Will Ramos that is nothing short of mind-melting, and it all comes together in this completely over-the-top but still incredibly listenable package. It’s a lengthy endeavor, given how much variety and technicality is crammed within these tracks, but having it all build up to the monumental title-track trilogy makes it all worth it and then some.

8. Blackbraid – Blackbraid I

Blackbraid - Blackbraid I


The emergence of Blackbraid was one of the more notable 2022 happenings. A solo atmospheric black metal project formed and inspired by the Adirondacks that merges Native American heritage and mythology with a genre we are all familiar with quickly resonated with many, and with good reason. The hype for Blackbraid I came fast and furious, and the expectations were undoubtedly met when the album was finally released in full. The stories contained within these tracks — between the acoustic interludes, blistering tremolo picking, and dense rhythms — take a listener on a mesmerizing expedition through the harsh, yet stunning mountains and forests of the Adirondack wilderness. As a listener, we feel immediately connected not just to the place, but to both the associated past and present as well. We feel completely immersed in the history and culture that define this album. Filled with spirit, nature, and a sense of self within this grandeur, Blackbraid I is a successful link between black metal and the natural world around us — and that’s what keeps the fire alive in this genre.

9. White Ward – False Light

white ward - false light


Rounding out my top nine is Ukrainian experimental black metal project White Ward. Despite seeing their name across many platforms over the years, False Light was the first album I committed myself to, and I am certainly better off for it. This is dark, depressive black metal that is limited by exactly nothing. No boundaries, no rules, no formulas. Transitioning from heavy to soft effortlessly with an abundance of blackgaze, post-metal, and dark jazz tendencies (the impact of the saxophone work cannot be overstated), we’re presented with a juxtaposition that feels urban and modern, offering a dreary portrayal of society. There are plenty of moments where False Light stampedes along rhythmically, making it easy to become embedded in its procession, but at the same time this is a complicated album that forces attention and introspection, and it’s unlike anything else I discovered in 2022.

[Album Review]


The Honorable Mentions

Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor

A favorite around Nine Circles, and with good reason. Truthfully, I don’t even know how to speak to this thing in a few short sentences. I’ve always appreciated the Zeal & Ardor project, but this is next level. The same unique blend of styles is abundantly present, but it seems the delivery has been perfected. Jarring, and deeply moving, Zeal & Ardor was felt throughout 2022.

Goatwhore – Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven

This is the first Goatwhore album that I really connected to, and I did so on many levels. This is blackened thrash executed as well I could ever envision it. It’s raw, it’s vicious, and it’s filled with energy, but at the same time there exists a certain groovy melodic undertone that makes this a seriously fun, engaging listen.

Elder – Innate Passage

I’m new to the Elder experience, and thanks to Innate Passage, I know I’m here to stay. This is just really tasty heavy psychedelic rock, effortlessly weaving between and around a massive range of soundscapes. Unapologetically progressive and experimental, it’s truly addicting and almost too easy to fall in love with.

Inexorum – Equinox Vigil

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I needed new Inexorum in 2022, still riding fairly high on Moonlit Navigation from 2020. Turns out, Equinox Vigil built on that last effort perfectly, and was received with just as much enthusiasm when all was said and done. A majestic display of black metal that feels like a natural step forward in the Inexorum timeline.

Saor – Origins

The most dynamic Saor album so far was also the most polished, and the new territory explored on Origins yielded great results. The Saor concept and sound has truly evolved in all the right ways, and start to finish I struggle to find a single weak moment on this latest effort. It’s beautiful, it’s epic, and it absolutely soars.

Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Discarnate Ails was one of those earlier 2022 releases that just kept growing on me as the weeks and months went by. These three extensive tracks, totaling about half an hour in runtime, are complex, heavy, and insanely dark. There is more happening in this record than you could ever anticipate, and each listen reveals something new hiding in its depths.

Falls of Rauros – Key to a Vanishing Future

Falls of Rauros just keep getting better. Key to a Vanishing Future is incredibly expressive, encapsulating seemingly every human emotion at one point or another. And musically it just seems to build on itself as the album marches forward, making for a ridiculously satisfying listening experience. Nobody does black metal quite like Falls. Keep it coming.

Stjärnfält – Lapporten

Quite simply, a brilliant display of interstellar atmospheric black metal… is that a thing? Because that’s what this is. Incredibly catchy, at times uplifting, and at others bleak. I love the way Lapporten is structured, with varying tempos and emotions within each track, making it almost too easy to get lost in, inspiring repeated listens over and over again.

Suffocater – Rotting Existence

This was a great discovery in the middle of the year that I found myself returning to with regularity. Somewhere at the intersection of metallic hardcore and death/doom lies this dark, gritty project known as Suffocater, and I am completely here for it. Rotting Existence is an efficient, concise collection that leaves a very noticeable mark without any hesitation.


Playlist

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
cmb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s